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

weight loss mistakes, weight loss running, weight loss diet

1. The Fat- Burn Zone

Mistake: Running slowly to stay in the 'fat-burning zone'.

Why it keeps you fat: The body uses more fat when you're jogging along than when you're running hard, but the total calories you'll have burned by the end of your training day will be lower.

Do this instead: Dr Ricardo Costa, a lecturer in dietetics and nutrition at Coventry University, explains that you'd be better off running faster: "After you run, your metabolism increases," he says.

"This continues for 24-48 hours, depending on the intensity of your run. So, although intense exercise doesn't burn a lot of fat at the time, you will burn more in the long term. Plus you get the extra benefits that come with working your body harder."

2. Weight Watching

Mistake: Hopping on the scales every day.

Why it keeps you fat: Nutritionist Martin MacDonald (mac-nutrition.com) says, "I always try to move my clients away from the scales. Some people seem to only be motivated when they see their weight drop by three pounds per week, but that's not good for the long term.

If you lose a pound a week you can keep that weight loss going, whereas if you're losing three or four pounds, the weight  will probably go back on."

Do this instead: Only weigh yourself once a week. Look for long-term trends rather than fluctuations. And remember that muscle weighs more than fat, so you could be getting leaner without dropping weight.

3. Popping Pills

Mistake: Taking diet supplements that promise to increase metabolism or suppress appetite.

Why it keeps you fat: According to Costa, research has failed to produce any conclusive evidence that these so-called 'diet pills' work to help you shed the pounds.

"If you turn over the packet, you'll find that they all say they work in conjunction with a healthy diet and physical activity," he says. "Plus, some of these  products can cause liver damage or even put extra stress on your heart." Which isn't great news.

Do this instead:
All you need to do is simply follow a healthy, balanced diet and do regular exercise - you don't need any help from pills.

4. The After Burn

Mistake: Not eating after your run in the hope of burning extra fat as your metabolism speeds up.

Why it keeps you fat: "Many researchers have shown that if you take in a combination of carbohydrate and protein after running, you recover better, increase your fitness levels more effectively and perform better in your next session" says Costa.

So, by eating shortly after a training run or a race, you'll be leaner in the long term.

Do this instead:
Eat a balanced meal that is rich in protein and carbohydrate as soon as possible after running. Something like a peanut butter sandwich or chicken with rice makes the ideal post-run fuel.

5. Running for Treats

Mistake: According to personal trainer Paul Richardson (pwrpersonaltraining.co.uk), some runners ruin their efforts to get lean by rewarding themselves with unhealthy foods after a training session.

Why it keeps you fat: It's a lot quicker to eat calories than it is to burn them. "Many people say, 'Right, I've done my 30-minute run, now there's room for that box of Maltesers'," says Richardson. "Then they're back to square one. They won't make any changes to their body shape if they keep repeating that pattern."
Do this instead:
Prepare a healthy post-run meal or snack beforehand, then you'll be less likely to reach for fattening treats.

On the next page: Find out why energy drinks and a low-calorie diet could be wreaking havoc on your weight loss plans.

Previous article
Bespoke Body in Six Weeks
Next page

Weight loss, nutrition, running, weight loss mistakes

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

We'd love you to add a comment! Please login or take half a minute to register as a free member
Smart Coach
Free, fully-personalized training plans, designed to suit your racing goals and your lifestyle.