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Build a lean, strong body by avoiding these fat-loss mistakes

Losing weight isn’t complicated but it’s all-too-easy to make some silly mistakes that will hamper your efforts, says New Body Plan editorial director Joe Warner

I got an email recently from someone I’ve never met before, nor previously spoken to, but who had decided it was my fault that they couldn’t get back into shape. They’d “tried absolutely everything” to lose weight, they said, but nothing worked and it was my fault for making them think that anyone could strip away body fat and make a massive difference to their quality of life, if only they took some smart steps in the right direction.

Deep breath, hit reply
After a few emails back and forth I got to the bottom of the issue – and I wasn’t to blame (and I could help). You see, they’d never even started one of the New Body Plans, which I found a bit annoying (it proved to me that they’d barely tried anything, let alone done everything, to lose weight), but I bit my tongue. Because it transpired that despite thinking they were working towards achieving a leaner body, they were making some very basic – but easily done – mistakes that were taking them further away from that goal: they were super-stressed, doing far too much time-draining training, and consequently having huge trouble sleeping, all of which makes losing weight practically impossible.

Big-picture puzzle
Which brings me to the point of this post. We all want to look and feel better in our own skin, but sometimes we can lose sight of the bigger picture and do too much of one thing at the expense of another, and our fat-loss efforts can unravel pretty fast. But if you can re-address your imbalances then you’ll already be on the right route to a leaner, fitter and healthier body. Here’s how.

Stress is the nemesis of fat loss. And unfortunately for all of us there’s far too much stress around right now. Chronic or long-term stress is so damaging to not only our mental health, but our physical health too, and being in a permanent state of stress, with our hormones going haywire, makes losing weight almost impossible.

The effect becomes magnified when you’re desperate to get back into shape but it’s not working as quickly as you’d hoped. The tendency then is to start over-analysing and over-complicating every single thing you do each day. And guess what? The result isn’t the sudden possession of a lean and sculpted body, but sky-high stress levels and the inability to see the woods for the trees. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and not sure which way to turn don’t worry: there’s a very easy way to take back control of your health and fitness.

There’s the perception it’s very impressive to live on very little sleep, and it’s common to hear highly-successful people who don’t get much described as “superhuman”. But there’s nothing back-slapping about it – and it can be utterly disastrous for your fat-loss efforts. Even a single night of poor sleep drastically affects how you think, feel and perform the next day.

Remember your last poor night of sleep? Did you suffer low energy levels? Yep. Did you crave sugary and fatty foods? All day long. Did you have any desire to work out? Absolutely none. It’s always the same: poor sleep makes us much more likely to make poor health and fitness decisions, and the more stressed we are the greater the sleep-related problems we’re going to experience that makes being fitter, healthier and happier so much harder. So if you’re suffering from a shut-eye shortage we’ve got the solution so you can sort your sleep for good.

I’ve used various strategies over the years when trying to get into shape. Early on, when my efforts were focused on cardio (daily running for an hour or more) I spent the rest of the day pretty sedentary and hungry, so I wouldn’t move much during the other 23 hours of the day, and would eat pretty much what I wanted. So although I burned a ton of calories when out running, I didn’t burn very many at other times, and would also consume a lot high-energy snacks. The result was that I wasn’t in a calorie deficit so I didn’t lose body fat (or build any muscle).

When I started doing short but intense activities instead, such as HIIT drills or lifting weights, while I may have burned fewer calories when training I always got an a huge endorphin buzz from a short and successful session, and would therefore be far more active the rest of the day, and much more aware about the food I was eating to refuel my body. And I started building more lean muscle mass, which had a huge transformative effect of how I looked with my shirt off. So if you want to use the smart way to get lean you need to be clever with your cardio.

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