Ten Most Common Weight Loss Mistakes

From upping your pace to cutting back on calories, here are 10 slimming slip-ups – and what to do instead

by Julia Buckley

6. Running on Empty

Mistake: Going straight out for a run in the morning without eating breakfast.

Why it keeps you fat: No matter how much you eat at night, by the time you wake up the next morning your body's energy stores will be diminished, simply from keeping you alive while you slept.                    

If you get up and start running without eating, it's not just your performance that will be affected. "Because the energy stores in your liver will have depleted overnight, your body's starvation mechanisms could kick in and you won't get the training adaptations that increase your metabolism over the long term," says Costa.

Do this instead:
Always eat breakfast. This should ideally be something containing slow-release carbohydrates, such as porridge or wholemeal toast.

7. Cutting Calories

Mistake: Eating a very low-calorie diet in the belief that your body will have to use its excess fat to fuel your runs.

Why it keeps you fat: This can lead to a frustrating spiral of weight gain. "People will lose weight when they severely restrict calorie intake, the problem is it causes the body to go into starvation mode," says Costa.

Your body reacts to what seems to be a famine situation by clinging to fat instead of burning it for energy. As soon as you stop starving yourself, the weight goes back on thanks to your slowed-down metabolism.

Do this instead: Eat decent-size portions of healthy food. Your body will burn more fat when it's being fuelled properly.

8. Energy Drinks

Mistake: Using sports drinks or energy gels to fuel your short runs.

Why it keeps you fat: If you're eating well and  fuelling up sufficiently before your training session, there should be enough energy stored in your muscles to see you through up to two hours of exercise.

You only need the boost from energy products if you're going to be running for longer than this.

Do this instead: "If you are training for less than two hours, water will suffice," says Costa. "If you are following a balanced diet and you're keeping your stores stocked up, you won't need anything else - even if you're working at quite a high intensity."

9. Reducing Fat Intake

Mistake: You want to lose fat from your body, so you lose it from your plate.

Why it keeps you fat: "The bad thing about this is that essential fats will be restricted from your diet as well," says Costa.

Your body needs this type of fat to recover and repair itself after the rigours of running. Without them you won't be able to perform well, so you won't be burning as much body fat during your runs.
Do this instead:
Restrict saturated fats, which are found in meat, butter and cheese - you don't need these to be healthy. But do eat foods containing monosaturated fats, such      as oily fish, olive oil, and  most types of nuts.

10. Working at 110 per cent

Mistake: Training ever harder, faster and longer in your quest for leanness.

Why it keeps you fat: Neglect to give your body the rest it needs and you put yourself at risk of overtraining.

"This can cause hormonal imbalances and thyroid problems, both of which can have a detrimental effect on weight loss," says MacDonald. "Some studies have found that it can also lead to what I call 'skinny-fat syndrome', where you have slim arms  and legs, but a lot of fat around your tummy."

Do this instead: Build up your training gradually, take at least one day off per week, eat a healthy diet, do cross-training and reduce your general stress levels. 

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Discuss this article

I make that 5 mistakes, not 10!
Posted: 15/08/2011 at 10:28

And muscle does not weigh more than fat. Muscle is DENSER than fat so takes up less space.
Posted: 15/08/2011 at 10:33

Steve...there's a handy little button at the bottom that says "next page".

Posted: 15/08/2011 at 10:44

Try clicking on "next page"
Posted: 17/08/2011 at 13:31

AllNew wrote (see)
And muscle does not weigh more than fat. Muscle is DENSER than fat so takes up less space.

A jar of muscle weighs more than a jar of fat.

Posted: 17/08/2011 at 13:59

My alarm goes off at 5.45 am and I am running by 6am. No time for brekkie until I get back, will a glass of fruit juice kick start my metabolism??
Posted: 29/12/2011 at 06:57

Yes it will, yours is one of the rare occasions where a sports drink can be useful, but just water your fruit juice down with half water and you will be sorted but don't forget breakfast after.
Posted: 05/01/2012 at 10:25

There seems to be a lot of conflicting arguements on whether or not it's good to run before breakfast or not to help weight loss.

 It seems every article says something different. Does anyone know if there have been any conclusive studies into this?

Posted: 05/01/2012 at 13:56

Deciding to go for the run, rather than stay in bed is definitely better for weight loss..
Posted: 05/01/2012 at 13:58

Simon's got it, you generally run that early out of necessity not choice, bottom line is always energy in against energy out, what the article helps with are the finer details within that to always maximise the benefits of your training and maintain a steady blood sugar level via a healthy diet.
Posted: 05/01/2012 at 14:58

Don't quote me on this* but I seem to remember a programme where a dietician explained why, technically, running in the morning does have a marginal benefit in terms of calorie burn because of the body clock and metabolic patterns through the day, but the practical conclusion was that the effect is so minimal, the best strategy is: run at the time of day that suits you best, because you're more likely to actually bother.

*Maybe there's some scientific literature on this but I CNBA looking for it.  Where's Sarah? 

Posted: 05/01/2012 at 15:22

We store water in muscle, can't store water in fat.  Many 'fat' people are dehydrated, they don't have enough water storage!
Posted: 27/03/2012 at 14:31

Click on Next....
Posted: 09/04/2012 at 12:10

i have been into one sport or another for all or most of my adult life and i feel it is wrong to pigeon hole these mistakes and rule reducing your food intake out of hand i have made tons of errors not fueling enough putting in too much fuel but i feel hardened rules are the worst because myself and likeminded people hang onto these rules    just saying
Posted: 05/06/2012 at 09:39

Hi! I am doing each 5th day fasting and its definitely works. For example: 1day-swimming, 2day-cycling, 3day-gym, 4-running, 5day-rest and fasting. The fasting for me is good full breakfast in the morning and till next morning no food at all just fresh juice and water. Next day the first day of training and its going to be the easy workout. 
Posted: 24/11/2012 at 11:47

That's not fasting, that's eating one meal a day, many people live like tha all the time, only their one meal will be in the evening.

Why not just work out how many calories you're saving on that day and reduce your weekly total like wise, then you wont be so hungry for one day.

Posted: 24/11/2012 at 15:58

Severly cutting calories 1-2 days a week has been shown to release specific hormones beneficial to fat loss rather than muscle loss (which prolonged calorie restriction can do). It also has a positive impact on other health markers like insulin sensitivity that prolonged calorie restriction doesn't. There was a horizon programme on this recently, and Bradley wiggins followed this protocol before his tour de france win. There's more info in Cycling Fitness magazine.

Good luck with it GS
Posted: 25/11/2012 at 09:30

To be honest, I've tried every diet under the sun and it isn't one approach fits all. Different things work for me at different times, but the overriding principle for me is simply eat less cr*p. Calories count, but it really depends on what our bodies do with those calories. Some (processed) foods trigger fat storage / hormone release / hunger etc.

sometimes I apply rules to help me achieve this (Keep carbs under 100g, drink more water etc), but ultimately it boils down to the fact that eating natural is the way to go. Of course, it's damn hard when faced with a doughnut!
Posted: 25/11/2012 at 09:39

The Kenyan's run on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. It must be ok!!


Posted: 26/11/2012 at 10:56

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