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Common dieting mistakes will not only limit the amount of fat you lose but also compromise your ability to retain or even build muscle throughout the body recomposition process.

You do not wish to end up looking skinner or “skinny fat”, but instead shred off the excess fat while retaining or building up as much muscle as possible that will give you the lean and strong physique.

1st Mistake: Losing Weight Aggressively

While aggressive diets may yield faster weight loss, the percentage of weight loss deriving from muscle instead of fat tends to increase accordingly. 

A good rule of thumb is to lose around 0.5-1% of your body weight per week. This will allow you to retain or even build muscle as you lose fat more optimally.

2nd Mistake: Dramatic Changes Derails Progress

The most common occurrence when an individual start dieting is to drastically reduce their food intake or even eliminate carbs completely! They usually will also increase their cardio activities at the same time, thinking that all these sudden changes will speed up the process! 

This can be true in the short term to a certain extent, but it is actually stopping you from continuously losing fat while getting leaner in the long term.

2 specific reasons why it is detrimental in the long term:

  1. Difficult to sustain for an extended period of time and very likely the individual will experience the negative effect of aggressive dieting quickly. 

  2. This approach also prevents you from having any leverage when you hit a fat loss plateau. 

The hard truth to dieting in a calorie deficit is that over time your body will compensate and it does so by decreasing its metabolism to burn fewer calories. With this, it will naturally decrease the various movements you make (aka your NEAT) throughout the day.

This will eventually leave you stuck in a fat loss plateau since your metabolism has decreased to a point where you are no longer in a calorie deficit to lose fat.

To break through this fat loss plateau, you will either have to decrease your calorie intake slightly or increase your physical activity. But since you have been “starving” yourself and doing excessive cardio, it is very unlikely for you to consistently continue pushing through this fat loss plateau. 

This is the exact reason why many people are stuck in their fat loss journey and losing a lot of precious lean muscle from doing too much cardio. Hence, the rate at how you lose more fat than muscle is critical!

Eat at a very slight deficit of approximately 5% to a maximum of 20%. For most individuals, this equates to around 100-500 calories below maintenance calories. If you are at a higher body fat percentage, you should aim for the higher end. And vice versa for those with a lower body fat percentage. 

Try to keep to a minimum of 1-2 cardio sessions per week at the start of your journey as well! 

If your weight and fat loss begin to stagnate after a few weeks, you can simply drop your calories further and/or increase your physical activity slightly, as needed. This will then allow you to break through these plateaus.️

3rd Mistakes: Not taking diet breaks when needed

This is specifically for diet breaks with your calorie deficit.

The longer you are on a calorie deficit diet, the more your body begins to physiologically adapt. This adaptation not only slows down your fat loss but also makes you more prone to losing precious muscle mass.

Diet breaks can be effective if implemented properly. You can do so by increasing your calories back up to maintenance for a week or two during your diet. 

This will reverse a lot of the physiological adaptations that your body has made in response to your diet. It will then make your weeks of dieting after this break a lot more effective for both fat loss and muscle retention at the same time. 

The only major drawback of diet break is that it will extend the length of your diet as a result. 

Personally, I will recommend implementing a diet break only when necessary, once every 4-8 weeks. This will avoid increasing the length of dieting while still reaping the benefits that diet breaks have to offer!

The final takeaway from this article is to avoid rushing the process and slow it down by using a more controlled and systematic approach to dieting.

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Featured Contributor:


As a coach, Edwin’s mission is to optimise your health and performance so you can achieve the absolute best quality of life. 

He helps clients with sustainable and functional body transformation and specialises in body recomposition (fat loss/muscle gain), sports performance, as well as strength and conditioning.

He empowers skinny-fat professionals with evidence-based methods to gain muscle and lose fat simultaneously year-round!