Fat loss is the most common fitness goal, and while it may seem easy on paper, it becomes a lot tougher to achieve in reality. Whilst the basics of fat loss revolve around hitting a protein goal and ensuring a calorie deficit, our efforts are often hindered or disrupted by numerous hurdles outside of diet and exercise. Ultimate Performance personal trainer Matthew Leeb reveals the most common obstacles to achieving your fat loss goals—and how to overcome them to make lasting, sustainable changes to your lifestyle and physique.
Alcohol is basically a macronutrient like protein, carbohydrates, and fat but the difference is that alcohol is not an essential nutrient. When ingested, your body treats alcohol as a toxin and fights to get rid of it. Now while a case could be made for moderate alcohol consumption (one or two drinks a day), anecdotal evidence suggests that the best transformation results involve the elimination of alcohol (meaning during the transformation period). This is likely because alcohol represents ‘empty’ calories and has no satiating effect, which may lead to the consumption of excessive calories above your usual intake; and alcohol may interfere with training because of its dehydrating effects or by interrupting your sleep.
When it comes to travel, the old adage holds, “fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. While not inherently bad, travel is disruptive. One of the most important elements of any transformation is consistency and travel can make this difficult. Before you travel, make a plan of attack. If possible consider staying somewhere with a kitchenette so that you can still prepare healthy meals or pack healthy snacks like protein bars and beef jerky for a convenient way to keep your protein intake high.
Rest and recovery are just as important to a transformation as training and diet. When your body doesn’t get the sleep it needs, your progress will stall. A lack of sleep will prevent you from performing your best in the gym as your body will not be able to adequately recover and adapt to meet the demands you’re placing on it. Additionally, a lack of sleep increases the likelihood of you gaining fat. First, a lack of sleep impacts the function of your hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin which can lead to increased appetite and cravings. Second, a lack of sleep diminishes your ability to regulate blood sugar which results in a condition known as insulin resistance. Essentially, that means your body becomes ineffective at partitioning resources which will inevitably lead to more fat storage.
Irregularities in digestion mean you’re not absorbing the nutrients from your food and you’re not detoxifying optimally. Regular poor digestion can also be the symptom of an underlying food intolerance or your body’s response to stress. Simple strategies to improve digestion include chewing your food more thoroughly, eating in a relaxed state, and avoiding common food intolerances.
Stress is stress is stress. No matter what physical or emotional stress you subject yourself to, your body will respond the same way: the adrenal cortex increases cortisol secretion and the activity of the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) will increase. Repeated or chronic stress leads to high levels of circulating cortisol in your body which is linked to numerous physiological consequences including chronic fatigue, immune suppression, and fat storage. Therefore, it becomes important to balance acute stressors (weight training, HIIT, etc.) with recovery inducing activities (sleeping, low-intensity exercise, etc.) whilst managing chronic stressors (work, home, relationships, etc.). Some simple stress management practices include keeping a stress journal, scheduling time for hobbies, and getting a massage or acupuncture.
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