Beach Body Hottie, or Nottie?
By: Steve Powers
Beach season is upon us, and by now you may have already started your dieting. Chances are you’re running into that 1-month road block where your progress has stalled out and you begin thinking silly things like “Maybe I need a cheat day!”. Well, I’m here to shed light on common dieting pitfalls that will hinder your progress more than you would initially think.
- Not tracking your food intake.
Paramount to obtaining a proper beach body is learning to track your food. Using your hunger as an indicator of how much food you need can be tricky. After dieting for a period of time, your body will naturally release hormones meant to increase your hunger, regardless of how much food you have consumed! Learning to track your food intake with smartphone applications like MyFitnessPal or Nutritionist is vital to your success. These programs take out all the calorie “guessing” and let you hold yourself accountable for all that snacking you might do!
- Consuming too little food.
On the flip side of this coin, is the fact that many people start a diet with too few calories. Although you will see weight loss for the first few weeks of a “crash diet”, your body will transition into a very harsh survival mode. You will burn less calories from fat, and more from muscle. Since muscle burns twice the number of calories that fat does (yes, fat burns calories!), your body will start to consume the energy from muscle tissue to conserve its energy stores, which is a double-edged sword. Fat cells contain much more energy than muscle, which is a protein based energy source. So not only are you receiving less energy from your bodies energy stores, you are losing the ability to perform at your maximum potential. Reduced output during your workouts means reduced calorie burning!
Starting at a proper calorie deficit is not as complicated as many “gurus” claim it to be. For basically anyone except a bodybuilding competitor, it’s as simple as finding a basil metabolic rate calculator (BMR) online, and adding ~300 calories. From this point, you can setup your healthy meals and judge your body composition week to week. If your body is making compositional improvements (looks leaner, feels strong), you can maintain this caloric level. If you are no longer seeing improvements, try reducing by ~250 calories for a week and judge from there.
Although this method is not viable for long term (> 2 months) weight loss, it is a very useful tool for someone looking to shed that winter weight!
- Burning out on steady state cardio
To much of the population, losing weight means spending hours on a treadmill doing steady state cardio. Like our previous pitfall, this is also a double-edged sword!
The first issue with this weight loss strategy is the fact that jogging on treadmills, or biking casually, can be a tedious, boring activity. It quickly becomes a chore, and on days when you are feeling tired or sluggish, there is very little incentive to make the effort to get out and be active.
The second issue comes from the inherent inefficiency of steady state cardio. This workout provides no real stimulus for your body to change. Body composition improvement comes from a stress, or stimulus, placed on the body. When stressed, your body can make unbelievable adaptations. For our goals, a stressful workout will cause your body to get stronger, and burn more calories throughout the day. Because steady state cardio does not provide this stimulus, you are merely burning a handful of calories during your workout, and ONLY during the workout.
Dieting is much like investing in the stock market. The idea is to make your money work FOR you. So how can we take this concept and sculpt it for our fat loss goals?
Simple, implement high intensity interval training (HIIT)! This type of cardio includes very short, intense bursts of activity followed by a short rest that will cause your body to burn much more energy during your workout, and even more AFTER your workout. In fact, a proper HIIT session can continue burning calories up to 72 hours afterward (for beginners, 24-48 for experienced athletes).
Adhering to a food schedule can be difficult, especially if your day job doesn’t allot you much time for food consumption (nursing, trucking, wait staff, etc.). Today, the market is flooded with premade protein bars, energy drinks, and microwaveable “healthy” TV dinners.
Unless you are a seasoned ingredients label reader, it is easy to miss out on all the added sugars, unhealthy fats, and processed chemicals required for these products to have a palatable taste.
Inflammation from these types of ingredients can wreak havoc on your digestive system. As your body becomes inflamed, it loses the ability to properly process nutrients. Without a proper intake of nutrients, both macro and micro, your body cannot operate to its full potential. This can lead to stalled weight loss, or that soft, watery look! This condition will cause you to retain water, and in general look “softer” than you had looked just a week prior. Reviewing progress photos, the average person is liable to go into full on panic mode and slash their calories dramatically!
Never fear, though. If you feel your body has suddenly regressed and is looking worse, take a few days to reduce your inflammation. Reduce your processed food intake, drink a few glasses of lemon water each day, and take in a few extra servings of vegetables and/or berries. You’ll be good as new in no time!
- Not working hard enough
This is always a tough pill to swallow. No one enjoys being referred to as not a hard worker, especially when they’re at the gym 5 times a week, but, sometimes, you need someone standing behind you telling you to push it further.
As we’ve discussed before, your body excels at adaptations. In the long run, your body will increase its ability to handle training, whether it be cardio or weight training. As such, your mind will often fall into the trap of “I’m adding 20 pounds to my squat, so I’m clearly increasing my output”. The truth is, your body may be capable of adding 50 pounds, AND 5 more repetitions! If you want change, you must change your workouts. And that change usually means adding intensity! This doesn’t mean try to set a personal record every time you step foot in the gym. It simply means you need to push yourself outside of your comfort zone.
Embrace the discomfort for the 1 hour you’re in the gym, so that you can enjoy the summer with a healthy, lean beach body!
If you liked this article you may also like: