You’ve been working so hard and staying so consistent but still aren’t achieving the goals you’ve set for yourself of losing body fat. This can be discouraging. First, I want you take this moment to remember how far you’ve come. But let’s see if I can help you get past the plateau you’re experiencing and lose that body fat.
Measuring Fat Loss
First, I would want to know how that fat loss is being measured. There are lots of ways to measure fat loss–some are more accurate than others.
There are skinfold calipers where a trained professional pinches your skin at different sites on the body, then performs some calculations and determines body fat that way.
Then, there are bioelectrical impedance analysis machines. Some are handheld; others are about the size of a stadiometer (that thing at the doctor’s office they make you step on to measure your height and weight).
Then there are bod pods, underwater weighing… the list goes on and on.
Each of these methods are prone to error. The handheld bioelectrical impedance analysis machines can misread your body fat percentage by 4%. There are specific instructions that need to be followed before even using this machine, and if they aren’t followed, then the reading you get is going to be off. Not only that, but if the exact same procedures aren’t followed every single time you get measured, then you won’t be able to accurately determine any changes that may have occurred.
A Better, Faster, and Cheaper Way to Measure Body Fat Progress
Believe it or not, one of the best ways to know whether you’re actually losing body fat is to simply take a moment to see how your clothes are fitting. Are your pants feeling a little looser around the waist, hips, or bottom? Are you shirts feeling a little looser around the chest and arms? If so, you’ve probably lost some body fat.
What To Do If You're Exercising Consistently But Not Losing Body Fat
Change Your Exercise Routine
Let’s say that your body fat measurements were accurate and that the reality is that you have not lost much body fat. One thing I would recommend is mixing up your exercise routine. If you normally go for a 60-minute jog, do some sprints. Try a boot camp-style routine. Consider changing up your routine every 2-4 weeks. If you haven’t incorporated any resistance training yet, definitely consider adding this in.
Studies are finding that High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) can help the body turn to using fat for energy, which may help reduce body fat. That’s why I recommended sprinting instead of jogging. You can incorporate HIIT into your resistance training routine by shortening rest periods and aiming for more repetitions per set.
What if you’ve already tried all of this and you’re still experiencing your body fat loss plateau?
Get Proper Rest & Sleep
Be sure you’re getting adequate rest and sleep. Make sure that you’re giving your body at least 1 rest day each week to recover from the stress your putting it through. As Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness mentioned in their book, Peak Performance, stress plus rest equals growth. Also, aim for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.
Would Eating More Help with Fat Loss?
Not necessarily. The body can go into what we sometimes call “starvation mode” when it’s deprived of fuel. When we don’t consume enough food, the thinking is the body will want to hang on to its fat stores instead of using them as fuel. This is a result of the body thinking that food is scarce, so it think it needs to hold on to every precious calorie for survival. And since fat is such a wonderful source of calories, the thinking goes that the body will want to hold onto fat.
The reality is that there’s more to fat loss than just diet. Your age, gender, activity level, types of exercises you perform, your muscle mass, and your genetics, in combination with a consistent diet all play a role when it comes to fat loss. To say that you need to more calories or need to eat more often is an oversimplification. It is very possible that this could backfire and cause you to gain some weight back.
When it comes to your diet, the best thing to do is eat when you’re hungry and stop eating when you’re satisfied. Notice: I didn’t say stop eating when you’re full–stop when the hunger has gone away. You shouldn’t feel hungry any more, but at the same time you still feel light on your feet. The pants don’t feel tighter, the belt doesn’t need to be loosened… there aren’t those feelings of discomfort that so often accompany overeating. That should be the goal.
The Bottom Line
Continue exercising regularly, but change up the routine. Definitely consider incorporating High Intensity Interval Training and resistance training if you haven’t already. Then make sure you’re getting adequate rest and sleep each week. When it comes to meals and snacks, eat the right foods and when you feel hungry, eat. But eat only until you’re satisfied, not full. Then continue on this path.
A slip-up here and there will not sabotage all of your hard work, so press on if that happens and learn from those mistakes if you can. Remember: you are already so far ahead of most people that have begun this same journey, so continue staying hopeful, and I promise good things will continue to happen.