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by guest contributor and personal trainer Trevor Mah

There is a great deal of frustration when struggling to reach a goal despite putting in all of your effort. Many people try to achieve their weight loss goals but to no avail regardless of how hard they try. Fat loss for the human body is a scientific process and there are many ways where things can go wrong. The good news is that exercise science has evolved enough to a point where we can narrow these things down. Here is a list of common mistakes and precautions when trying to achieve lean body composition goals:

Not prioritizing resistance training over cardio

Weight training is vital for a positive influence when making a body composition change. In addition, the muscle building effect will raise your metabolism for better longterm results, make you stronger and more confident. Cardio does have its place though, but should usually be kept in shorter, high intensity programs that revolve around sprinting. In other words more muscle development = a better ability to burn calories effectively!

Too much emphasize on exercise, but not enough on diet

You can never out train a poor diet. Many people believe that exercise is the sole key to fat loss and getting lean. Going to a gym and working out is an essential place to start, but it is important to focus on maintaining a smart diet to truly see results. An easy way to start is by consuming more vegetables and proteins and selecting better whole foods. Staying hydrated is also important for body composition goals.

Being sedentary, even if you work out

Having a desk job or sitting for long periods of time can contribute to a slower metabolism and your body not effectively burning energy, in turn making you more likely to store fat. Despite the benefits of exercise, it alone cannot solve sedentariness. The best practice for offsetting sedentary lifestyles is to take active and conscious approaches to reduce your time sitting down. Getting up at work frequently and stretching, or taking up an activity with friends can beneficial.

Eliminating too much fat

Not understanding the important role that fat has in the body can cause a lot of people to quickly slash it out from their diets and immediately view it as a bad thing. Not all fats are created equal. Healthy dietary fats that are found in nuts, avocados and other whole foods are essential for regulating the body’s hormones which can in turn have profound effects on insulin sensitivity and metabolism. Very low fat diets can cause feelings of sluggishness and fatigue, which can later lead to counterproductive diet and lifestyle choices.

Setting up the wrong type of goal, i.e. working out in order to burn off calories

We have all heard or been through the type of workout where you would exercise out of the guilt from a poor choice the night before. Whether it be binge eating or overindulgence of an unhealthy food, working out to “burn off” what we ate is typically an unsuccessful approach. Being motivated to lose the fat that we consciously put on (let’s face it, nobody forced us to eat those bad things) can place us in a negative frame of mind. We rationalize this behavior and it causes a vicious cycle of redundancy and ultimately can lead to wasteful efforts. As soon as we burn off the calories, we would then assume it is okay to reward ourselves once again through overconsumption. The key to avoid this drawback is to set performance related goals opposed to fat loss goals from guilt. Doing so allows you to exercise in a greater state of mind as you feel the motivation to continually improve rather than to offset the damage that has been done.

Persistent stress factors

The main hormone linked to stress is cortisol. In stressful ordeals, your body will produce higher levels of cortisol which can work directly against weight loss. Unfortunately, this comes at the cost of deterring your natural metabolism and you go into a fat storing mode. Stress can come from various factors depending on the individual. If stress persists in your everyday life despite doing regular exercise, you must take a step back and develop better stress-management habits. One place that is common is inconsistent or lack of sleep.

Trusting too many fad diets and information from the media and others

The media misrepresents healthy diets and distort proper exercise routines by doing what it takes to make money and increase their brand awareness. They use questionable testimonials, pictures and flashy displays over scientifically researched and proven information. Although some things may work, these shortcuts tend to have short-term sustainability over the tried and true traditional methods. The best way to understand is to always think about how it applies to you. Something that may work for someone else may not work for you.

Being dishonest on yourself

This is applicable to all facets of your lifestyle- diet, habits and effort. For instance, not putting forth a conscious effort to track your progress can make it difficult to troubleshoot and find the problem that may be holding you back. Whether it be something in your diet or infrequent training and sleeping habits, being true with what you are doing can only help you in the present and the long-run. Your body will not take care of itself and being dishonest with your approach will only make things more difficult along the way.

Some other reasons may be not be on this list, but it is important to be patient and track your progress when implementing a change. One thing that works for someone else may not have as much of a profound effect; nevertheless, it is crucial to remain consistent with your healthy habits to achieve your fitness goals.


Cermak. N., et al. Protein Supplementation Augments the Adaptive Response of Skeletal Muscle to Resistance-Type Exercise. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012.

Paoli, A., et al. High-Intensity Interval Resistance Training Influences Resting Energy Expenditure & Respiratory Ratio in Non-Dieting Individuals. Journal of Translational Medicine. 2012.

Phinney, Stephen. Ketogenic Diets & Physical Performance. Nutrition & Metabolism. 2004.

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