Why You Aren’t Losing Fat (And What You Can Do About It)


I’ve seen it countless times.  Someone does their cardio exercise almost everyday, usually it’s a run, eats right, but still cannot lose their excess body fat.  There really isn’t anything more frustrating in all of fitness than doing the things you think you are supposed to be doing, and STILL holding on to that body fat you so desperately want to see disappear. 

Maybe you’re on the elliptical or other machine which tells you how many calories you’re burning.  You use a food journal, do the math, and have calculated you are burning more calories than you are taking in; you SHOULD be losing weight you may think to yourself. 

You may start to feel like all your efforts to run, bike, whatever it is you typically do, are in vain.  You are simply maintaining and see no progress.  This is a classic thought process, and one of the biggest contributors to burn out.  Instead of being the benefit to your love handles, what if we told you your cardio routine may be the reason why you aren’t losing fat?  Keep listening…

For many people, running is their form of cardio exercise.  They’ll often go on 4, 5, 6+ mile runs and think they are doing what they are supposed to be doing.  In reality, your body is a pretty remarkable machine.  It can easily adapt to a given stimulus over a period of time.  Doing primarily the same runs at the same speed over a period of time is going to slowly decrease the effectiveness of the run.  Your body becomes more and more efficient at handling the same run, which leads to the workout becoming less challenging over time.  After some time of doing the same basic run, your body will burn less calories for energy than it did when you first began your running regimen.

There is some research out there that suggests long, slow-to-moderate paced cardio workouts may contribute to the LOSS of lean muscle mass over time.  As we should all know by now, the loss of muscle mass contributes to a decrease in your metabolic rate.  The body with less lean muscle mass is burning fewer calories at rest than the same body with more lean muscle mass.  Your goal is to keep your metabolism as high as possible for your body type.  Combine this with the fact that your body has adapted to your cardio routine, and you have recipe for non-existent fat loss and a loss of motivation.

You may have heard the myth that you burn more fat calories by doing low-intensity cardio, while high-intensity cardio uses more carbohydrate stores for energy.  Per a recent CNN Health article: 

“In general, low intensity exercise has its place — it’s less stressful on joints.

The myth is that if you exercise too intensely, you end up burning carbohydrates instead of fat.

It’s the most dangerous type of myth because there’s a kernel of truth in it, Hutchinson said.

The more intensely you exercise, the higher proportion of carbs you burn. You may burn less fat, but the total amount of calories burned is higher and that is the bigger picture.

When your body has burned up all the carbs, it starts burning fat.

“You can ignore zones and pay attention to how many calories you burn, which ultimately determines how much body fat you’re going to lose,” Fitzgerald said.”

Focus on how many calories you are burning during your exercise.  I realize this can be hard and confusing at times, so go all out and pull back from your training when your body demands that you do so.  You will no doubt be burning more calories, and ultimately, more fat, by training at an elevated pace.

So, what does all this mean for you?  Our mantra is this: if you want to look like an athlete (and here too), you need to train like an athlete.  How does one train like an athlete you may be wondering.  For one, athletes and people with lean, athletic, healthy builds, don’t simply go on the same run everyday and expect to keep losing weight.  Cross-training is the key to success, along with high-intensity interval training.

Don’t stay at one pace the entire time you do your cardio.  Work short, intense bursts of energy expenditure into your run, bike ride, etc.  Every few minutes, go at 90-100% for 30 seconds.  Ease up, and repeat this cycle for as long as you are exercising for.  This type of training keeps your body on its toes, and will never allow it to get comfortable with what you are doing, which is key to speed up fast loss.

Cross-training is just another word for training your body using various formats to achieve a higher level of success.  You should always aim to incorporate various forms of fitness into your routine.  Alternating your weight training program to include periods of heavy weights/low reps, and low weights/high reps, supplementing with pilates classes, cardio-based fitness classes, wind sprints, running stairs…..you get the point.

The principles of cross-training is what helped shape the Body Diversity Training method we founded here at Share It Fitness.  We believe combining a variety of strength/cardio based fitness classes with an effective weight training routine is the single best way to achieve that healthy, lean, and toned body everyone should be striving for. 

Above all, you need to develop the mental discipline to push yourself.  Whether you are going for a run, lifting weights, or taking a bike ride.  NEVER get comfortable with what you are doing.  If you ever get to the point where going for that run doesn’t seem like work, it’s because it probably isn’t anymore.  Always up your intensity when possible, push yourself to lift that heavier weight, and keep trying different forms of exercise.  Do this, and that stubborn fat is going to start melting away in no time.

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8 comments so far

  1. Robert on

    Great post. So true. This needs to be read.

  2. Jim@biketrainingblog on

    I agree. Calories in, Calories out. Once you get rid of the carbs and glycogen in your muscles, its all fat from there on out.

    My question is, is it ok to use up your carb storage and glycogen early so that you can burn more fat. Example: Today I plan to ride my bike 32 miles. I plant go really slow, but fast enough to get a good burn. Would it be acceptable to warm up, then burn really really hard for 5 miles to use up my stored carbs, and then settle into a typical resistive pace for the remainder 20 miles or so? This way more time is spent burning fast calories? Otherwise, it could take 15 or more miles before my stored carbs are burned off leaving less time to burn fat calories.

    Just my thoughts. Let me know what you think.

    • ShareItFitness on

      Thanks for the comment Jim. Checked out your blog, you’ve got some great stuff there. We are looking for someone to create some biking, either stationary or actual biking, workouts for us. Let me know if you’d be interested.

      As far as your question goes, in my personal opinion, I think the most effective way to train would be to interval between fast/slow bursts for maximium caloric burn. I agree with you in that a heightened pace for the first 5 miles or so would be beneficial to burn out that stored energy in your muscles. Once you’ve gotten through that, I think shifting to a moderate pace, followed by 30-60 seconds of a very intense pace would be ideal. Repeat this cycle over the course of your ride. For instance…

      0-3minutes – 60% max effort
      3-3:30 – 90/100% max effort
      3:30-6:30 – 60% max effort
      6:30-7 – 90/100% max effort
      Repeat…

      What do you think of something like that?

  3. Jim on

    Yeah, my blog is fairly new. I used to run a blog called goingfitness.com but the same ole same ole got old for me. Biking is where it’s at for me for sure.

    Per our discussion, I see that as a good high intensity workout, but not something that could be done say…..4 days in a row.

    When I ride with my buddies we do 3 minute pulls. So, while you’re drafting and resting, the guy in front is pulling for 3 minutes at 90% or more. It ends up being a 90% push every 3 minutes for about 6 miles at a time.

    After some research, it can take up to days to fully deplete glycogen stores depending on activity levels. For most it will take 2 hours of hard intense exercise to deplete glycogen to the point where your body has no choice but to burn fat.

    My idea of burning out hard for the first 5 miles simply isn’t enough, based on what I could find including a few studies.

    In the end, I think calories in vs. calories out is what is going to have to happen (for me at least).

    As for the biking workouts, I’d be interested in writing a guest post. If you are patient I could even include video. I got a new camera that attaches to the front of my bike. I could take a video of the in and out 3 minute pushes and write up a piece for you. It’s be next Tuesday before we push again.

  4. Kristie on

    Great post. I am struggling with my cardio program because I am bored with it. I definitely need to change it up a bit and maybe get some new tunes for my ipod.

  5. Kathleen LeGrys on

    As always, great information! I love changing up my workouts so I don’t get bored 🙂

  6. […] Posted by Kathleen LeGrys It’s easy to get in a workout rut and wonder why you are not seeing progress. Here are some ideas that may help if you have hit a plateau. I've seen it countless times.  Someone does their cardio exercise almost everyday, usually it's a run, eats right, but still cannot lose their excess body fat.  There really isn't anything more frustrating in all of fitness than doing the things you think you are supposed to be doing, and STILL holding on to that body fat you so desperately want to see disappear.  Maybe you're on the elliptical or other machine which tells you how many calories y … Read More […]

  7. klschartier on

    You are right about having to change up our routines to keep the fat burning. Thanks for the post.


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