Feeling stuck in your diet? Weight loss reaching a plateau? Most of us make mistakes when it comes to dieting simply because we don’t know what we’re doing wrong. Misconceptions and myths about food and diets have you struggling to know what to change and what to stick with. Keep reading to find out what you’re doing wrong and how to change it.
Eating carbs at the wrong times
Most people think when it comes to quick weight loss, carbs should be avoided at all costs, but that’s not the case. Carbs are an essential part of your diet, especially if you’re working out. Eating carbs at specific times can be the best way to avoid overeating them and make sure your body uses them up rather than storing them as fat. The best two times to eat carbs are first thing in the morning with breakfast, or immediately after your workout, when your muscles are most deficient in glycogen or stored carbs, their primary energy source.
Your current weight will determine how many carbs and how much stored fat you have available for your body to access. Women have a limited capacity for glycogen or carb storage in the muscle because they tend to have smaller and fewer muscles than their men, so once this storage is full, carbs will make a beeline to the fat cells for storage. What’s more, women’s bodies have a harder time accessing glycogen compared to men’s, which means they tend to hold on tostored energy, instead of accessing it to fuel their workouts.
Fix it tip: If you are carrying around extra body fat, you need to cut back on carbs and let the body tap into your energy reserves. Following a lower carb diet – getting about 20% to, at most, 30% of your daily calories from carbs is ideal to make this happen. Eat carbs that are high in fibre and provide long-lasting energy. These include whole grains, root vegetables such as squash and sweet potatoes, green vegetables like broccoli and kale, and fruits such as apples and berries.
Not enough good fats
Many people still believe fat makes us fat. This is completely wrong. Fat is just as important as protein and carbs and should never be cut out completely from any diet. In fact, low-fat diets lead to changes in dietary habits that can have serious repercussions on your health.
Research shows that diets that are high in carbs and low in fat have been linked to increases in cholesterol and an increased risk of diabetes, not to mention the body composition of those following a low-fat diet has been shown to be lower in lean mass and higher in fat mass – in other words ‘skinny fat’.
Lower lean mass can have a direct effect on your metabolism and your ability to burn off stored fat. On the other hand, including a sensible amount of healthy fats in your diet can have a host of healthy benefits, including a leaner and trimmer physique.
Fats are also important in the regulation of hormones, can help preserve lean muscle, keep our brains functioning optimally, help maintain glowing skin, and increase the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins that are important in metabolic regulation in the body.
Fix it tip: Aim to get a minimum of 20% of the calories in your diet from a variety of fats. Include whole eggs, fatty fish such as salmon, lean cuts of beef, or – for vegetarians – flax or coconut oil, chia and pumpkin seeds, nuts and avocados.
Protein is not your priority
If you want to build a lean and trim body, you need to bump up your protein intake. And eating an egg for breakfast is not going to cut it, either.
Protein has a thermic effect in the body, which means the body expends calories by digesting it. In fact, protein has a greater thermic effect than eating other foods of the same caloric value, such as carbohydrates. Also, eating a high-protein diet can help reduce hunger and keep your appetite in check between meals.
One study showed that those who ate a high-protein yoghurt snack had greater reductions in afternoon hunger versus those who munched on chocolate and crackers! Even better, they ate less at subsequent meals, too.
What’s more, it has been shown that eating a higher proportion of protein while on a calorie-reduced diet helps maintain lean muscle, which means no more skinny fat!
Fix it tip: Eat at least 20–30g of protein with each meal. Eat protein from a variety of sources, such as poultry, lean beef, whole eggs, low-fat dairy, or vegan sources such as lentils, beans and pea protein.
Your workouts are weak
If you want to burn fat, you need to build muscle. One way to do that is to workout regularly with weights – you don’t have to start weightlifting like a bodybuilder, but you do need to realise that carrying your groceries doesn’t count as a workout, either.
Weight training increases lean muscle mass, and the more lean mass you have, the faster your metabolism. Weight training has also been show to raise your metabolism when you’re not working out, for up to 48 hours post-workout, which means you’re still burning calories even while you rest. Following a consistent workout is one way to help lose weight, but so is cardio.
Adding in a cardio component to your workout routine will help to burn calories. But including cardio doesn’t mean walking slowly on the treadmill or lazily riding the recumbent bike while checking your social media. You need to shock your system and do something to challenge your body.
Try high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which will have you spending less time in the gym, and is more effective for fat burning. It also helps preserve muscle tissue and can even jack-up your metabolic rate!
Fix it tip: Plan to work out with weights at least three times per week, and hit every body part. If you’re not sure you what you’re doing when it comes to lifting, try a group class or get a trainer. Stick with mostly compound movements in your workout, such as squats, deadlifts and presses. These lifts incorporate a few muscle groups and burn the most calories. As well as weights, plan at least three HIIT cardio sessions. No matter what your fitness level, you can achieve HIIT by simply switching between low-intensity and high-intensity cardio exercises including running or cycling.
Sleep more and stress less
When you cut your sleep short, your ability to process and store carbs decreases. Your cortisol (a stress hormone) goes up, and hunger increases. All this can lead to weight gain in the long run.
Sleep allows the body to recover by rebuilding and repairing your muscles. Miss out on too much sleep and you also miss out on critically important growth factors and hormones that get released every night during deep sleep. So, if you want to lose more weight, burn off more fat and build lean muscle, you have to get more sleep.
In addition to a lack of sleep, stress can also significantly impact weight loss by increasing the catabolic (muscle-wasting) hormone known as cortisol. When cortisol is high, fat burning shuts off, which means body fat storage can be increased. Managing your stress may not seem that important, but even when your workout and diet are perfect, it could be preventing you from getting into your peak condition.
Fix it tip: Go to bed earlier, turn off the TV, close your laptop, and put away your phone – unplug and relax. Aim for eight hours of sleep every night. And manage your stress level by getting a massage, taking a yoga class or trying mediation to help you let go of all the stuff that’s not important!