Ten Most Common Weight Loss Mistakes

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.