Seeing results is great motivation but even with consistent hard work, progress isn’t linear. You can experience a lot of change one week but see nothing the next – change happens over time. This doesn’t mean your body isn’t responding to your efforts so stay encouraged and use these tips to ensure progress.
- Ditch the scale – Instead, track your body fat percentage (Related Post: Body Fat Percentage: Making Sense of the Number), tape measurements and how you look in progress photos. Losing weight often means losing water weight and muscle mass. Your weight is only part of a bigger picture of your progress; focus on your non-scale victories, too.
- Step up the intensity – Lift weights that challenge you and add intervals (variations of speed and incline) to your cardio sessions. Our bodies easily adapt to the demands we place on it so if you haven’t made any changes to the intensity of your workouts, chances are your body has already adapted and your progress will be stagnant.
- Fuel your body – Food is fuel. You can’t expect your body to push its limits on limited food or the wrong kinds of food. Metabolism will stall if your caloric intake is too low or if your meals aren’t balanced.
- Watch the “extras” – Fat free snacks, cheese and creamy salad dressings, high-sugar marinades, coffee creamer, that extra spoonful of peanut butter and even chewy vitamins are just a few of the ways empty calories sneak into our diet each day. Keep these “extras” in moderation because they all add up.
- Eat carbs – Yes, you need carbs. No, carbs are not the enemy. Your fat loss is primarily a result of your caloric intake, not on the intake of one macronutrient (protein, carbohydrate, fat) versus the other. People following a low-carb diet are in turn eating fewer calories and therefore may experience weight loss. However, this is a result of the lower caloric intake, not the reduction of carbs. Carbs do make your body retain more fluids so you might not feel as “light” or lean, but this is just water weight. Eating healthy complex carbs will not make you fat and in fact, they work well with lean protein to help you maintain a healthy weight, build muscle and reduce your body fat percentage.
- Get some rest – Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, is elevated due to lack of sleep and high stress levels. Stress-induced body fat generally concentrates around the belly and thighs, two of the hardest places to lose it. Aim for 6 to 7 restful hours of sleep each night. Identify your stressors and take a 5-minute timeout each day to help reduce your stress levels. Rest is essential to muscle repair and growth. Take at least 1 day off from the gym each week to recover and prepare your body to be stronger at your next workout. Don’t burn out before you reach your goals – make rest a weekly priority.
- Balance your training – Balance your cardio (running, swimming, biking, Zumba) with weight training (weight machines, resistance training with free weights) for a comprehensive training program. One or the other just may be the missing link to seeing results.
- Be positive – Visualization is a powerful tool to help you stay on track and thinking positively about your progress. When your thoughts wander and frustrate you because you wish you were further, visualize your success during the process of becoming fit and focus less on the outcome.