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Why You’re Not Burning Fat: Troubleshooting Your Workouts

Hit a plateau with your fat loss efforts? Well, it may be time to go back to the drawing board to figure out where you can make some tweaks in order to bust out of your funk.

While this article will be geared specifically towards what you’re doing in your workouts, there are plenty of other factors that can be affecting fat loss. Diet, for example, is a HUMONGOUS reason why you may not be shedding fat like you’d like. Give this article a read if you feel diet may be holding you back.

But if you feel your diet is locked in, let’s talk about how you train. After all, working out is a big component of fat loss. But sometimes your approach needs to be tweaked so you can start seeing better results. Let’s dive into them, eh?

Are you active enough outside of your workouts?

Non exercise activity thermogenesis is a fancy way of saying ‘the calories you burn when you’re not actively exercising’. This includes talking, walking, sleeping, and yes, reading this post right now. Your body is constantly burning calories… but how many calories you burn is reliant on how active you are throughout the day.

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While getting 10k steps or investing in a standing desk don’t seem like a lot in the moment, they still require you to generate force with your muscles, move joints, and burn calories. Now, is it a metric sh*t ton of calories? Hell no. But if done consistently, these small numbers will add up big time. For example…

Say you take a walk that burns 100 calories (roughly 30 minutes of brisk walking). In the grand scheme of things, that’s barely anything. Considering it takes 3,500 calories to burn one single pound of fat, 100 calories hardly seems worth it.

But let’s say you take that same walk every day for a week. Thats 700 calories.

Every day for 2 weeks? 1,400 calories.

1 month? 2,800 calories.

That’s damn near one pound of fat burned by simply getting 30 minutes of walking done. Now factor in your dedicated workouts and clean eating, and you’ve essentially got a 2,800 calorie head start on your fat loss efforts.

And the best part? You can space this however you want. Don’t have time for 30 minutes of straight walking? Break it up into 5 minute bursts. Who cares!

The takeaway point is that general activity over the course of a day will 100% add up and make an impact on your fat loss efforts.

Start taking all the stairs. Park as far away as possible. Return your shopping cart to the cart corral in the parking lot. Play with your kids. Get a standing desk. Set alarms on your phone to stand up every hour. Foam roll while you watch TV. Go for a post dinner stroll. Engage a friend in some friendly competition using activity trackers. Poke a hornets nest and see if you’re faster than them. Just move more!

Are you getting stronger?

Too many people neglect this concept when it comes to fat loss.

“I’m trying to lose fat, why would I care about getting stronger?!”

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Let us enlighten you.

Strength training builds the most effective fat burner in the world: lean muscle tissue. Muscle tissue is a metabolically active tissue, meaning it burns calories by simply existing. The more lean muscle a person carries on their frame, the more calories they burn at any given point compared to someone with less lean muscle.

And the best way to build lean muscle is to train with the intention of getting stronger. In simple terms, start lifting weights.

Squats, deadlifts, rows, chin ups, lunges, sled pushes, push ups… all of it. These movements should be performed regularly with the intention of upping the ante each proceeding session.

Deadlifted 100lbs last time? Try 105 this session.

Managed 8 pushups last session? Try to hit 10 this time.

Over time, your strength levels will build which will usually result in more lean muscle tissue (assuming adequate protein/calorie consumption). This means you’ll start to burn more calories while watching TV, sleeping, or even swiping right on Tinder. No judgment here.

So if you’re serious about fat loss, start strength training a minimum of 3x per week. Confused on how to start? Get in touch with us, we can help you get started.

Are you a creature of habit?

Look, everyone likes a nice rhythm and flow to their life. Finding your comfort zone and snuggling up with nice routine is nice. No unexpected, spontaneous occurrences makes life more enjoyable, right?

Well, for fat loss, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Your body is smart. Very smart in fact. It adapts to the stimulus placed upon it. Place the same stimulus on it repeatedly and your body will become more efficient at handling that stimulus. This makes surviving easier. And at the end of the day, your body only cares about one thing: not dying.

Your body doesn’t give a flying firetruck about looking good for beach season. It views calories as something it needs to keep your vital bodily functions going so you don’t keel over and die. So it will do all it can to make the expenditure of calories as efficient as possible. Think of it along the same lines as fuel economy in a car.

Cars with good fuel economy, like a Prius, get more mileage per gallon of fuel when compared to gas guzzlers, like a pickup truck. When you can travel further on less gas, you’re very fuel efficient.

Same thing holds true for your body. When you’re “fuel efficient”, you can get more work done on a tank of gas (calorie) compared to someone who isn’t. How does this happen? Usually by continually performing the same workout routine over and over and over without increasing the intensity or duration accordingly.

This is why many cardio based workout routines can result in a plateau of results. Too many people will routinely perform 20 minutes on the ol’ treadmill and never think anything about bumping it up. It’s 20 minutes every day, same speed, same incline, same everything. Over time your body will adapt this workout so you can get more done with less effort.

This means a decreased calorie burn.

This equates to less fat burned.

Which results in a fat loss plateau.

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Again, this is what makes strength training so good for fat loss. Every week you’re adhering to the principle of progressive overload, or in simpler terms, making things slightly harder than they were last week. Not to say this can’t be done with cardio as well, but it’s 10x easier and more convenient to apply to strength training. Trust us.

To jump start fat loss, perform your workout in a fashion you’re not accustomed to.

Usually jog at a steady pace? Perform some higher intensity intervals.

Usually lift very heavy weights (1-5 reps)? Perform sets of 20-30 reps.

Shake things up a bit and watch the plateau break.

Yes, you still should do some cardio.

So let us start off by saying that cardio should never really be your primary focus when it comes to effective fat loss. That spot is reserved for strength training combined with a cleaner diet. However….

You can’t ignore the fact that cardiovascular workouts can potentially add several hundred calories worth calorie expenditure in a given week. Not to mention the other various benefits that come from cardio, like improving heart health and facilitating improved recovery.

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The reason we say cardio shouldn’t be your primary focus is because it simply does not build lean muscle tissue like strength training does. And if you remember from the previous section, lean muscle is preeeetty important for fat loss.

Cardio will burn fat…. but it pales in comparison to strength training.

Aim to perform 1-3 cardio workouts per week, but make sure they don’t take priority over getting stronger.

And what type of cardio you ask? Honestly, whatever you prefer! But here’s a quick breakdown of the various kinds.

High intensity intervals: brutal if done correctly as the intensity is very high, but you typically won’t perform more than 15 minutes of these in a given session. Usually these have around a 1:6 – 1:8 work to rest ratio (ex: sprint for 10 seconds, rest for 60-90 seconds). If you can do these for more than 15 minutes, the intensity wasn’t high enough. Try not to perform more than 3 days of high intensity work, as it could leave you feeling run down and burnt out.

If high intensity intervals don’t leave you feeling like this, they weren’t high intensity.

Medium intensity intervals: imagine high intensity intervals, but take it down a notch. It’s not quite a sprint, but it’s not low intensity either. These can be performed for longer durations because you won’t be pushing yourself quite as hard (ex: 20 second “sprint”, followed by 45-60 seconds of rest). 20-30 minutes should do the trick.

Low intensity, steady state cardio: this is the form of cardio everyone knows about. The steady jog or bout on the elliptical where you can typically hold a conversation throughout the session. These can be great stress relievers or serve as a way to still be active on days where you feel like you need a break from higher intensity training modalities. This lower intensity form of cardio can also be done in the form of strength circuits. Anywhere from 15-40 minutes is the sweet spot for fat loss.

So let’s put it all together now.

Here’s what a typical week may look like when it comes to training for fat loss. Remember, this is just a general example. What works for you may look drastically different. But this ain’t a bad place to start.

Monday: strength training

Tuesday: low intensity, steady state cardio or medium intensity intervals

Wednesday: strength training

Thursday: active recovery or low intensity, steady state cardio

Friday: strength training

Saturday: medium or high intensity intervals

Sunday: active recovery or low intensity, steady state cardio

Will this program layout work for you? Maybe. Everyone responds differently to different exercise modalities. What works for person A might not work for person B. There’s an art and a science when it comes to fat loss. You’ve just gotta find your blend.

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