8 Reasons Stubborn Fat Sticks Around

by Dave Thomas

Do you feel as though you eat healthy, work out regularly, yet still can’t seem to get to a weight that you desire? Well, your first step would be to ask yourself how you are measuring it. If the answer is the scale, then stop. It’s not accurate. You may in fact be losing a lot of fat but you just don’t know.

However, if you feel that you’re doing all the right things and are struggling to shed stubborn body fat, here are eight common culprits.

Reason #1: You’re Not Drinking Enough Water

Water is naturally satiating and supports healthy metabolism in the fat burning process. It also helps our body retain less water (because we’re actively hydrating it) and making us less puffy.

A 2014 study by the Swiss Department of Medicine showed that drinking water created an immediate increase in energy expenditure, burning between 2 and 3 percent more calories than usual in the 90 minute window that followed.

Ever seen Nutrition Coach Ashley carry her nuclear missile silo of a water bottle around the gym? It’s because she knows the important of hydration on overall health, wellness, and physique and she wants to make sure she’s holding herself accountable to her daily consumption requirements.

8 Reasons Stubborn Body Fat Hangs Around

It’s best to consume 1 oz of water per kg of body weight. To calculate your weight in kg, simply divide your body weight in pounds by 2.2. 

180 pound person / 2.2 kg = 81 kg
81 kg = 81 daily ounces of water

Fix: Buy a measurable water container you can drink from daily.

Reason #2: You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep

Studies suggest that people who sleep fewer than 6 hours per night gain almost 2x as much weight over a 6-year period as people who sleep seven to eight hours per night.

Read that again.

That is buh-nanas.

Now, who knows if it’s the actual sleep or the other harmful habits people who don’t sleep a lot usually posses, but the point is that lack of sleep is bad not only for your overall health, but your fat loss efforts. In fact, bad sleep can decrease caloric burn 5-20% the ENTIRE NEXT DAY.

So many folks start trying to correct their physique with bullshit supplements, crash diets, fads, or hell, even straight to macros. Fix your base level physiology first. Your hydration and your sleep. There’s a reason Coach Ashley makes both a primary focus the first few weeks of her Nutrition+ group coaching.

Fix: Keep a log every night of how long you sleep and hold yourself accountable to getting seven to eight hours. Begin your nightly winding down routine an hour earlier.

Reason #3: You’re Not Eating Enough Protein

Most people greatly underestimate how much protein they actually eat, and nearly everyone fails to meet the necessary levels to support fat burning.

Protein is the macronutrient that most supports the development and sustainability of your lean body mass, and if you can pick up on a theme from every recent blog post, it’s lean body mass that supports healthy metabolism. The more of it we have, the more calories we burn.

Protein also has the highest Thermic Effect of Eating (TEF). It’s the hardest macro for our body to breakdown, so just the mere act of eating it is a calorie burning endeavor. For this reason, you want to try and stick to whole food proteins as best you can. Shakes are great, but since they are liquid we lose a bit of that TEF. Still, shakes are better than nothing so take what you can get.

Fix: Aim for 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight per day, or if you have start at less than that, aim to get a serving of whole food protein at every major meal: eggs, chicken, lean red meat, fish, seafood, turkey, lean pork, or any other animal protein is ideal. About the size of 1-2 open palms.

Reason #4: You’re Not Eating Enough Carbs

I feel like we’re getting further and further away from the carb-phobia that was rampant a few years ago. No? Am I wrong?

I might be wrong.

Cutting carbs can be an effective tool for fast fat loss IF one’s metabolism is healthy, but, it rarely lasts and often comes at a severe cost to your body long term in the following areas.

• Decreased thyroid output
• Increased cortisol output
• Decreased testosterone and strength
• Decreased brain function and mood
• Increased muscle breakdown
• Decreased immune function

When our thyroid is lousy and our cortisol is up, we are primed to store fat long term.

From Dr. John Berardi, founder of Precision Nutrition (the program in which Ashley, Lenny, and I are certified):

“Your metabolism might slow, your stress hormones go up and your muscle-building hormones go down. You feel lousy, spaced-out, sluggish, cranky and maybe even sick. Most vexing of all? You probably don’t even lose that much weight in the long term.”

In other words, you are mortgaging your future metabolism for short term gains that are in fact fraudulent.

Fix: Get a serving of whole food carbohydrates with every meal: all potatoes, rice, oats, beans, fruits, and quinoa are most ideal. Whole grain bread if you are tolerant. About the size of 1-2 cupped hands, in general.

Reason #5: Your Weights Are Too Light And You’re Moving Too Fast

Cranking through workouts with light weight at a madman’s pace may shed fat at the initial shock to your body. This is the exact reason why so many become addicted to it, when in reality, any activity for beginners will burn fat at the onset of a program. Eventually, as you become more of a seasoned member your body will adapt and you must continue to challenge it with new stimulus: heavier loads. 

Performing set after set of 24# kettlebell swings is not going to move you forward if you’ve been camped out there for months.  Doing them faster may be good for your conditioning but will not translate into fat burning once your body is adapted to that particular movement at that particular weight.

As we covered in complete detail here, the focus on your personal output and targeting of strengthening and developing muscle tissue will have a noticeable positive effect on body composition. It increases energy expenditure, anabolic hormones and overall work capacity. As opposed to mindlessly performing fast, meaningless sets, filling your body with cortisol, at weight that’s too light to create change.

This is not to say you need to turn yourself into a heavy weightlifting monster. Simply setting a goal of increasing your deadlift or squat ten pounds, belling up one or two levels on your kettlebell work or pushing yourself to a new band on your pull-ups can present enough stimulus to elicit change. Start mixing in lower rep strength options once or twice per week if you are the type to always go for higher rep conditioning choice, and go heavier in every single movement you do if you varied format workouts. Your body and fat loss will appreciate the change of pace.

Fix: For the current cycle, dedicate yourself to the strength option whenever given the choice. Go a bit heavier and slower in all that you do.

Reason #6: You’re Weights Are Too Heavy And You’re Moving Too Slow

Maybe you’re the flip side of the coin and you always go slow and heavy and your body needs new stimulus: faster pace.

Here is what Dr. Pat O’Shea had to say about Interval Weight Training (IWT) way back in the 60’s.

“During strenuous exercise, the rate of metabolism rises, going to about 15 times the resting metabolic rate (RMR) and even higher during intense interval work. For example, running 5 mi/hr the oxygen uptake required is 28 ml 02/min/kg of body weight with 3.7 cal/hr./lb burned, while a short burst of intense interval work may require 100 ml 02/min/kg with 13.8 cal/hr/lb burned. By maintaining the high level of training over a 5 or 6 week period one would expect a significant increase in the ratio of lean body mass to fat. Over a three month period you would be ripped like never before.

Intense interval work utilizes a greater percent of the body’s muscles, both slow and fast twitch. Also, performing high intensity work places added energy demands on the respiratory system, cardiovascular system and nervous system. Thus more fat and glycogen are burned to support the expanding energy demands of the body during – and after – intense exercise. In other words, the cost of short intense interval exercise is very high in terms of energy demands in comparison to low intensity aerobic exercise. What’s more, while at rest trained active muscles burn more fat night and day, contributing to further fat loss.”(1)

(If ‘ripped’ is a medical term then that is outstanding news.)

While we will always be huge advocates of the fat loss and body changing effects of lifting heavy within a circuit, sometimes you just need to mix it up and get more pace in if you’re too accustomed to always going slow and heavy.

Another bonus?  Often times the de-load has a plateau busting effect on your strength when you return to the heavy lifts a few weeks later.

Fix: For the current cycle, dedicate yourself to the muscle/fitness or conditioning option whenever given the choice. Go a bit lighter and faster in all that you do.

Reason #7: You’re Too Focused on the Scale

Constant scale watching makes our actions incredibly short-term focused which more often than not leads to long term adherence failure. Scale watching can be incredibly dangerous for people who join the gym for the first time, because the scale will never tell you the truth. You may not see the scale come down but in reality, you are very likely shedding pounds of body fat.

Remember, this isn’t spin or Orange Theory. You are lifting and developing new lean muscle, running on a machine that was built for hard prison labor in the 1800s.  If you want to know what’s happening, I cannot recommend to you strongly enough to get a scan at the Crown Point gym. It will accurately portray your overall weight in terms of muscle, fat, and water weight so you’ll know exactly how your progress is coming along (free once per month on Sundays to all members).

You cannot get fat while working out and eating right, so pass on the crazy, irrational scale watching and please check yourself before you wreck yourself.

Reason #8: Your Body Needs New Stimulus

Like Einstein said about insanity, “It’s doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Remember, creating adaptation in the body is all about giving it the correct stimulus and it may be that your body is just completely adapted to your current routine. You may just need to shake it up.

Get more sleep.
Drink more water.
Eat more protein.
Go for a run a few nights per week.
Stop going to so many MUSCLE classes.
Stop going to so many FIT classes.
Stop going light all the time.
Stop going heavy all the time.

You get the idea.

Dramatically changing your body requires commitment and patience.  It takes time, a few easy adjustments in both training and diet like the ones mentioned today, but adhere long enough and you’ll see major, sustainable change.

Have specific questions about nutrition? Nutrition Coach Ashley is a great resource and place to start: Ashley@Perform-360.com