Pitfall 1: Being Too Tired
A friend of mine walks around looking like he could step onto a bodybuilding stage any day of the year. So I asked him about the most important factor in fat loss. His answer? Sleep.
It's counter to what the world is telling us. Aren't we supposed to get hopped up on coffee, work 12 hours a day, work through the night, and only eke out 3-4 hours of sleep? You know, as if this was some gold star we get on our badge of manliness?
Nope. If you're trying to get lean, you need your sleep because while they seem like two unrelated processes, sleep and fat loss are connected through glucose tolerance and your fat cells. One study found that people getting 4.5 hours of sleep per night compared to 6 hours per night had higher insulin secretions and scored higher on the insulin resistance index.
Another study showed that by moving from 8 hours a night to 4 hours a night of sleep for just two days, people experienced an increase in peak glucose and insulin levels after breakfast, while also exhibiting a blunting of glucagon release.
The relationship between sleep and glucose tolerance may to be tied together via dysfunctional fat cells. Other research shows that lean healthy individuals experience a decrease in insulin sensitivity when sleep is restricted. At the same time, leptin concentrations also decrease.
Because fat cells are the only cells thought to produce leptin, and calorie intake in the individuals in the study wasn't reduced (as this will decrease leptin), it seems as if our fat cells are playing an important role in the increased insulin resistance observed with reductions in sleep.
In the end, one of the best ways to fix this and to get your fat cells to behave is to sleep. Make it a priority. You manage to train 5-7 days a week and eat 5-6 meals per day, I'm sure you can schedule in 8 hours of sleep to support your dieting efforts.
Pitfall 2: Being Too Mentally Weak
Some say abs are built in the kitchen. Some say a lean body is forged in the gym. I think both are created in your mind first. Dieting down and getting lean is made in those moments when no one is around. When it's 10:30 at night, you're a little tired, a little bored, and you want to eat something. What are you going to do?
If you see yourself as a fat ass, then you're going to get off the couch, go to the kitchen, and forget all the sacrifices for the day as you eat your kid's leftover peanut butter and jelly sandwich. If you see yourself as a lean, driven, motivated person, you're going to get off the couch and go to bed so that you can improve your glucose tolerance.
Mental confidence and how you view yourself is key. To foster this mental confidence focus on two main areas:
1. Work to see yourself at your best.
It's easy to mull over the times that you cheated on your diet, slept in and skipped a workout, or let your body slide so that you were 15 pounds heavier than you should be. But that isn't helping, so stop.
Instead, always remember yourself at your best. Remember your PRs. Remember the workouts where you did an extra set of barbell complexes just because the burning in your lungs felt good. Always see yourself as that person and you'll be that person.
2. Just worry about yourself.
Don't compare yourself to the heart-attack-waiting-to-happen sitting next to you in the subway as he isn't on your level. And don't beat yourself up about not looking like the action heroes in the latest box office hit. Train hard, eat right, monitor, and adjust. That's the only thing you have control over, so control it.