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How to Lose Those Last Stubborn Pounds

By Anne Keckler | March 28, 2008

You’ve been working hard, dieting and exercising, and you’ve almost reached your goal weight. You only have a few pounds to go. But you’ve hit a plateau. Your weight loss has stalled, and what has been working for weeks or months just isn’t working any more!

What do you do now?

That’s the question I asked several knowledgable people at my gym, Club Legends, yesterday, including a couple of the most experienced personal trainers. I’ve put their answers in bold, and my comments to you about their answers are in italics.

How does someone who has lost weight by dieting and exercising lose that last stubborn five pounds that just aren’t coming off?

Vince Graham, Personal Trainer:

You need to take a look at your nutrition. That’s very important. Lower calories more, but be sure to keep them above 1200 calories per day. Eat breakfast every single day. Eat frequently. Get some protein at every meal.

Many people underestimate how many calories they are taking in each day. If your weight loss has stalled, you might find it helpful to keep an accurate record of your calories for a few days, to see how many you are really consuming. Weigh and measure your food, and use a good calorie counter. Fitday.com is one free option, with a database of common foods. It will also track macronutrients, water intake, and some micronutrients.

Eating breakfast, and eating frequently are both intended to keep your metabolism high. Protein prevents muscle loss while dieting.

Increase the intensity of your exercise.

By increasing weight, reps, and/or sets, you increase the intensity of your weight training. Ways to increase the intensity of your cardio include going faster, going uphill, increasing the resistance on the stationary bike, etc. Get your heartrate up higher.

Get adequate rest.

Inadequate rest increases cortisol, which is the hormone that makes your body store fat. It’s the stress hormone, because your body creates more cortisol during times of stress (such as high intensity exercise). You cannot completely avoid this, but you can reduce it. I’ll write more about this another time, but for now just remember to get plenty of sleep when you are trying to lose weight.

Stan, NASM Certified Personal Trainer, Training Manager of Club Legends

Get a personalized plan from a qualified fitness professional.

Just as you would go to a dentist or doctor for help, a qualified fitness professional is trained to help people who are trying to reach a fitness goal, such as weight loss. We keep up to date on the latest research, and we have experience in helping others like you. Of course you’re smart enough to study and learn all of this on your own, but do you really have the time to dedicate to it, or would it be better to hire someone who does just that? Hiring the right trainer can be a very smart move, and just think of how great you’ll feel when you’ve finally reached your goal — in weeks rather than months or years!

Time your meals for optimum fat loss.

I plan to write an entire article about meal timing soon. Stay tuned for that! But try some of the other suggestions here for now, and see how they work for you.

Get plenty of rest.

As I said above, this is vitally important. It reduces cortisol, thus helping you to lose fat.

Tim Durning, Bodybuilder

Increase the intensity of your workout.

We’re starting to see some things repeated here. Adequate rest. Higher intensity workout. Tim is in training for another competition in a few weeks, so he’s currently trying to shed most of his bodyfat. He likes to do “stadiums,” which means that he goes to a football stadium and runs up and down the bleachers! He also suggested increasing the reps in your workout, but keeping the weights high. Notice that this isn’t the same old “high reps with low weights” that you’ve read in all those fitness magazines (especially the women’s ones)!

Have low-carb days.

Before his last competition, Tim did a low-carb diet to shed those last few pounds of fat. This time, he’s doing it a little differently. He is alternating ultra-low-carb days with moderately low-carb days. This is often referred to as a Cyclical Ketogenic Diet.

Use the sauna.

Tim calls it the “hot box.”

Along with drinking plenty of water, sweating can help you to get rid of fat. One of the reasons for this is that the right diet and exercise program will release fatty acids into your bloodstream, and you have to then flush them out of the body. Just be careful you don’t get dehydrated. Which leads us to Tim’s last piece of advice:

Drink tons of water.

Flush out those fatty acids!

Kim Gracik, former personal trainer, really fit mom:

Eat lean protein: tuna fish, boiled egg whites, and turkey breast all work for me.

This echos Vince’s advice to eat protein at every meal. She gives specific recommendations, though, which can be helpful.

Drink lots of water.

Again, lots of water. I can’t stress this too much. If you are going to the bathroom a lot, just think of how much fat you are flushing out of your system each time.

Cardio in the morning, before breakfast.

This one is controversial.
author, Bill Philips, is a big supporter of doing cardio in the morning before breakfast. Some people undoubtedly get good results with this, and there is some research to back it up. Other people, however, feel woozy, lightheaded, and weak if they try this. For them, it might be better to eat something light before exercising in the morning. I tend to think that it’s the overall calorie balance over the course of 24 hours that matters most. You can always try it, though, and see if it works for you!

So those were my mini-interviews. I enjoyed getting the perspective of others in my gym. It was good to get my mind working on this issue, since I’ve decided to lose 5 – 10 pounds, myself. I know that my readers want to be fit and healthy, and, like me, you aren’t willing to lose weight at any cost.

Finally, here are my own tips, and the things I will be doing over the next few weeks to lose a few pounds of fat:

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