5 Common Fat Loss Mistakes – And How To Avoid Them

Summer is just around the corner – which means a lot of people are dieting in  gyms around the country. Unfortunately, many will fall short of their goals of a chiseled body and six-pack abs. The good news? That doesn’t have to be you. Check out the list of five common dieting mistakes and learn how to avoid them.


5 Common Fat Loss Mistakes – And How To Avoid Them

MISTAKE #1: Dieting Too Quickly

Many individuals want to see results instantly, so they follow drastic plans in an attempt to lose weight.  Beware of any approach that includes extreme caloric restriction, complete exclusion of foods, food groups or macronutrients, “cleanses,” “fasts,” along with a number other extreme weight-loss strategies.  These types of plans are not sustainable – and potentially not even safe -over the long term.  In fact, rigid approaches to dieting have been shown to result in an increased prevalence of binging and eating disorders than more flexible approaches (1, 2).  In addition, rapid rates of weight loss typically result in more muscle loss than slower rates of loss (3-5).  There is no peer-reviewed scientific evidence to support that any of the extreme measures listed above results in increased weight loss over the long term.

TRY THIS Diet at a rate of loss of 1% bodyweight or less per week (~ 1 – 1.5lbs/wk for most people) using a flexible approach, eating a variety of foods from all food groups (unless you have a diagnosed medical reason not to).

MISTAKE #2: Training Exclusively With Light Weights

When starting on a diet, most individuals will switch exclusively to high-rep, light-weight workouts instead of the heavy weights that built the muscle in the first place.  While there is nothing wrong with training in any specific rep range – because all rep ranges have benefits in the context of a properly designed training program – abandoning heavy weights completely while dieting is a recipe for muscle loss.  Using lighter weight typically leads to reduced rest periods in an attempt to keep heart rate up and burn more calories; however, by drastically reducing rest periods the number of reps performed on each of the following sets results in lower training volume.  This is not a good thing because training volume has been highly correlated with muscle growth (6, 7).

TRY THIS Continue to train with heavy weights using a variety of rep ranges, adequate rest times, and focus on progression in the gym.

5 Common Fat Loss Mistakes – And How To Avoid Them

MISTAKE #3: Doing Too Much Cardio

The first thing most people do when shooting for weight loss is increase their cardio, usually drastically.  It is not uncommon to hear of individuals going from no cardio during the winter to one-hour plus of cardio a day while trying to crash diet for summer – which can also lead to increased muscle loss.  Studies have shown that the more cardio sessions you do, the longer the duration and lower the intensity that cardio becomes – and the more interference it has with size and strength gains (6, 8).  Another potential mistake in the race to lose body fat?  Fasted morning cardio. Recent data has shown no difference in fat loss between doing cardio in a fasted or fed-state (9).

TRY THIS Perform only as much cardio as needed while still making progress towards your fat-loss goals.  Cardio is only a tool to help create a caloric deficit and should not become the main focus of your training program.

5 Common Fat Loss Mistakes – And How To Avoid Them

MISTAKE #4: Heavily Relying On Supplements

Overdoing it with supplements won’t make up for inconsistent training or nutrition – which should be the foundation of any fat-loss program. Supplements are exactly that – a way to supplement an already-solid workout and clean whole-food nutrition program. Even those supplements that have been scientifically shown to work will not make or break your progress or make up for a poor diet (5).

TRY THIS Focus on nutrition, training, and cardio during fat loss rather than looking to supplements for the answer.

MISTAKE #5: Lack Of Consistency

Everyone wants to see immediate results. But when they don’t see progress as quickly as they would like, more often than not people get discouraged, jump off the dieting bandwagon and become inconsistent with their nutrition and/or training.  This inconsistency results in even slower progress over time and, eventually, most give up their goal of being lean altogether.

TRY THIS Be patient when assessing progress. Meaningful long-term changes in body composition take time.  Focus on consistency with your nutrition, training, and cardio and you will see progress over time.


  1. Stewart, T.M., D.A. Williamson, and M.A. White, Rigid vs. flexible dieting: association with eating disorder symptoms in nonobese women. Appetite, 2002. 38(1): p. 39-44.
  2. Smith, C.F., et al., Flexible vs. Rigid dieting strategies: relationship with adverse behavioral outcomes. Appetite, 1999. 32(3): p. 295-305.
  3. Garthe, I., et al., Effect of two different weight-loss rates on body composition and strength and power-related performance in elite athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab, 2011. 21(2): p. 97-104.
  4. Mero, A.A., et al., Moderate energy restriction with high protein diet results in healthier outcome in women. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 2010. 7(1): p. 4.
  5. Helms, E.R., A.A. Aragon, and P.J. Fitschen, Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 2014. 11: p. 20.
  6. Helms, E., et al., Recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: resistance and cardiovascular training. J Sports Med Phys Fitness, 2014.
  7. Schoenfeld, B.J., et al., Effects of different volume-equated resistance training loading strategies on muscular adaptations in well-trained men. J Strength Cond Res, 2014.
  8. Wilson, J.M., et al., Concurrent Training: A Meta Analysis Examining Interference of Aerobic and Resistance Exercise. J Strength Cond Res, 2011.
  9. Schoenfeld, B.J., et al., Body composition changes associated with fasted versus non-fasted aerobic exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 2014. 11(1): p. 54.


Peter Fitschen

Peter Fitschen is a PhD Candidate in Nutritional Science at the University of Illinois. He has a BS in Biochemistry, MS in Biology with a Physiology Concentration, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is also an NGA Natural Pro Bodybuilder who has competing in natural bodybuilding since 2004 and owner of Fitbody and Physique LLC, where he works with a wide range of clientele from beginners to natural pro bodybuilders.

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