Top Nine Exercise Mistakes Made By People Who Want To Burn Fat

By Trevor Justice and Maria Stevens, Certified Personal Trainer

Mistake #1: Eating too few calories.

It’s safe to eat 500 calories less than you need to maintain your weight. However, if you eat any less, your body will think its starving.

Then you’ll become leptin-resistant, you’ll lose muscle tissue, and your metabolism will slow down. Chances are, you’ll wind up gaining back the weight you lost.

So if you want to create a deficit of 500+ calories per day, burn the additional calories through exercise, rather than starving yourself.

To learn more about leptin, click here to download our free book, "The Secret To Being Fit Forever":

Mistake #2: Measuring your progress by weight, not by inches.

When you exercise, you displace fat with lean muscle. So losing 10 pounds could mean that you’ve actually lost 16-17 pounds of fat, but gained 6-7 pounds of lean muscle.

Since muscle is denser (i.e. it takes up less space per pound), you’re likely to lose inches and pant sizes faster than pounds.

And here’s a bonus. Muscle tissue burns more calories per day than fat tissue. So increasing your muscle mass also raises your metabolism. That means you burn more calories while at rest!

Mistake #3: Doing the same exercise routine over and over.

When you flex the same muscles the same way every time you workout, your body recognizes it as a “routine”. It becomes more efficient and hits a plateau. So you see diminished returns.

By contrast, when you challenge your body with different exercises each week, you burn more calories and get more overall benefit. You can also get this benefit by changing the order of exercises.

When your body never knows what type of activity you’re doing next, it can’t get efficient.

That’s why – in “Fit Forever In 30 Minutes” – Maria shows you a new exercise circuit each week. After the first four weeks, you can rotate through those four circuits.

Mistake #4: Trying to stick with a boring routine.

When exercise is boring, you’re more likely to quit. This is another reason to change your routine each week, or mix up the order of exercises. It’s also the reason Maria gives you a new routine each week.

Mistake #5: Not working your legs enough

The best way to burn calories is to exercise your biggest muscle group: your legs and gluteal (butt) muscles. For example, lunges, squats, and jumping jacks.

So if your workout mostly consists of moving your arms, you’re not getting the maximum benefit. This is why Maria’s workouts include lots of leg movement.

Mistake #6: Overreliance on a gym

Some people have the discipline to visit the gym 3 times per week, regardless of circumstances. But what happens when there’s a thunderstorm or ice on the roads?

What happens when you’re traveling? What happens when you’re sick and contagious? Or for whatever reason you don’t feel like going out?

Exercising with minimal equipment gives you the greatest flexibility. That’s why Maria shows you how to get a full body workout with just a set of dumbbells. If you have a jump rope or stability ball, that’s even better… but they’re not required.

Mistake #7: Resting for too long between exercises

Breathing hard indicates that your heart rate is high. The faster your heart rate, the more calories you burn, and the higher your afterburn. What’s afterburn?

It’s the increase in calories you burn while at rest after your workout. The afterburn can last from 3 to 14 hours. That’s why physically active people stay leaner. Their metabolism runs higher after physical activity.

To increase your metabolism after exercise, do more demanding exercises, and take shorter rests between exercises.

Maria’s routines create a huge afterburn for a small investment of time. The Week 3 routine, in particular, consists of interval training where you go directly from one exercise to the next, with no rest in between until you’ve completed the set.

Mistake #8: Doing exercises with poor form. 

There are two downsides to poor form. First, the muscles you’re trying to work don’t get the full benefit. Second, you could be injuring yourself. What’s an example of poor form?

Many people fail to keep their backs straight when doing pushups.

This is why Maria shows you how to do pushups with your weight on your knees instead of your feet. She also gives you safety tips like these:

V-lunges: “If this hurts your knees, don’t go down as far.”
Leg Lifts: “If this is too hard, bend your knees.
Sumo dead lift high pulls: “If your back starts to round, then only go halfway down

Mistake #9: Waiting for your designated “exercise time”

Instead of waiting for your workout, seize opportunities to burn calories during your everyday routine. Here are some examples:

•    Carry heavy groceries a few blocks.
•    When unloading your car, carry two bags at a time instead of one.
•    Chase your dog.
•    Help friends move furniture.
•    Park on the far side of parking lots, so you have to walk further.
•    Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
•    Walk or bicycle instead of driving.

To see Maria teaching a fat-burning weight circuit, click here.

Then scroll about 70% down the page.. .until you see her standing on a big red carpet. Then click play. Did this blog post serve you? If so, let us know how. If not, how can we serve you better?

22 Comment(s)

  1. I have my masters in nutrition and work in the field and cutting your calories by more than 500 is perfectly fine and safe.  I am not advocating going super low or starving yourself, but if you cut your calories by more than 500 (assuming you are still eating above 1200 calories) you will be fine.  You will *not* become leptin-resistant.  Personal trainers may be experts in fitness, but they certainly are not experts in nutrition.

    Cindy | Reply

  2. GREAT TIPS!! Keep them coming:-)

    Jo-Anne | Reply

  3. i'm been doing heavy workout for about two years now,but my tummy still no flat as i want it to be,i feel soo frustrated but even like that i keep workingout my five days a week. I wish i can get a nice body someday….but i don't know how.

    Pina Armas | Reply

  4. Here is what Dr. Neal Barnard says about it: “Eat at least 10 calories each day per pound of your ideal body weight. This tip is directed at calorie-cutting dieters who do not realize that, if they eat too little, their bodies stop making an appetite-controlling hormone called leptin. A person whose ideal weight is 150 pounds needs at least 1,500 calories per day, and probably much more.”

    If you want to create a daily deficit of 1,000 calories, Maria is all for it, as long as you use exercise (or physical activity) to burn half of those calories, rather than starving yourself and sitting at a desk all day.

    admin | Reply

  5. Hi there, I have just embarked on a juice only fast. I am drinking 5 32oz jars of juice a day. It is impossible to know how many calories I am taking in. I would venture to guess between 1200-1500 calories a day. I take in 2 fruit juices a day and 3 green juices a day. A mulit vitamin. And an additional 2 quarts of water. I have not added workouts yet. I am hoping to add light weights 3 times a week and walks 5 times a week and 2 hot yoga classes a week. How does this sound to you?

    Debbie Daliey | Reply

  6. Hi there Pina. Have you tried eating a low-fat, high-vegetable raw vegan diet? And, if that is too much for you, consider starting by leaving out all bread, gluten, beans, soy, refined sugars and cheese. Those are all big culprits in obesity, even in small amounts. 
    In terms of calories, I lost 30lbs in 30 days on around 2200 calories a day. It's not the amount that you eat, but what it is that you're eating, and where your body is in terms of its toxin load.

    Raederle | Reply

  7. I've just read that green tea targets belly fat. Any proof of that?

    Sally | Reply

  8. Hi Cindy, 
    the key words here were "less than you need to maintain your weight" which appears to be different from your comment "assuming that you are not doing less than 1200 calories a day."  I am not defending or criticising (australian spelling hate the z), just would like your clarification, for the money, I am a nutrition student.  So the original comment is tied to a persons ideal weight, as it should be I am thinking.   At what point does a person become leptin resistant, this will also help me as I have Diabetes type 2.  many thanks for your help Sharon 

    Sharon | Reply

  9. I'm a certified "Ayurveda Life Style Counselor"  which is not  a masters degree , but western training in health in most cases does not take into consideration each persons individual constitution which basically is how does each individual digest and process what is taken in (as in everything that goes in).  The concept is easy to observe, one person eats a lot but does not gain weight or some individuals have not so good health habits but enjoys a healthy life.  If a person burns a lot then they need more, if a person burns slower, well you get the picture (a lot of it is common sense).  Always use more than one source, do your homework and by all means look at the science, but never neglect what science can't see, you are body mind and spirit.
    Live long and prosper.

    Amos Nance | Reply

  10. I am inclined to agree this article is peppered with poorly supported views.  It has been prove repeatedly in university studies that the heavy loading of the latissimus Dorsi  muscles of the upper back releases the largest amount of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) which is known lipolytic and will remove fat without necessarily converting it to energy. The large muscles in the above will have similar effect but but will lack the same intensity. A routine that switches between the two groups may be the most effective but not one that uses the muscles of the lower body exclusively. It should also be noted that use of isometric exercise( loading a muscle in the absence of movement at the the joint.) has been shown to increase the metabolism for up to 4 hours post session.  I find it interestigthat despite all the research that has been done on the topic there is no mention of blood type and how it impacts what you and the exercise you sould do.

    Brad | Reply

  11. It may be WHAT you are eating that is the  problem. As a Health Coach I guide people to experiment with different types of foods. Wheat is often the problem with resistant belly fat

    Debbie Orol | Reply

  12. A combination of yoga, zumba and walking did it for me. I feel great. Lesser intake of meat also helped.

    Milagros S. Serrana | Reply

  13. Hi, Cindy,
    I started the Fuhrman nutrient-dense plant-based eating about 6 months ago. I cut out dairy and eggs, meat, fish, and all processed foods. I get all my oils from avocados, nuts, and seeds – mostly through salad dressings that are chashew-based. My eczema of 15 years is dormant and I've lost 23 pounds. I've lost all cravings for cheese and sugar, but I do eat things off the diet at parties and events. My question is what do formally trained nutritionists thnk of the health consequences of eating dairy and meat – even organic dairy products. Dr. Fuhrman gives a lot of research about the very detrimental consequences of eating the Standard American diet (he calls is SAD)…

    Yvonne Edwards | Reply

  14. I’m vegan, I had a cholecystectomy one year ago, and since then, I have started increasing my weight, even If I control my eating, avoiding flours, sugars and a lot of greasy meals. Nevertheless, when I gave up oil and other fat content meals, I started having vitamin a deficiency, the doctor told me it was because, if I didn’t consume fat, I could not process betacaroteens. In a year I had increased my weight 12 kg (I was 51 kg, today I’m 63 and I’m 1.70 m tall). I use to perform different exercises each day, including at least 30 minutes of Tabata routines, but I have lost a lot of force, flexibility and I can’t lost weight.

    Karina | Reply

  15. Have a look at “Diet Wise” by Dr. Keith Scott-Mumby. I started following the Blood Type diet 16 years ago (terrible eczema but cleared up quickly) but Dr. Scott-Mumby’s approach takes it a bit further in personalising each person’s diet based on sensitivities to foods. Some pretty amazing stories!

    I have no complaints per se (55 years young) but am always on the look out for validated information that supports what I intuitively believe. Keeping it pretty simple.

    Cathy | Reply

  16. Now give us precise instructions for 9 or 10 exercises. For older people with limited ability, maybe isometrics or balance impaired individuals.

    Thank You

    George Boggs | Reply

  17. Hi George — it’s best to google for these and get a variety of responses :) The best exercise for people over 60 is to walk 10,000 steps a day! That’s nearly two hours walking.

    valarcher | Reply

  18. Just wondering where I can access Maria’s workouts? They sound very good

    Judith | Reply

  19. Why cut on beans ? i thought They are healthy .

    Marie-Josée | Reply

  20. Hi Judith — in the Naturally Fit Forever program you get these 3 videos:

    * Fat-Burning Body Weight Circuit
    * Core Muscle Circuit + Intervals
    * Bone Strengthening Dumbbell Circuit

    Maria is a fitness trainer in San Francisco.

    valarcher | Reply

  21. Hi Marie-Josée — yes research shows that the only food in common, that the longest living people on earth all eat, is beans. Beans are an excellent source of protein, resistant starch (the kind that feeds your gut bacteria) and minerals not commonly found in fruits & veggies, such as zinc. Raederle gave me feedback that she personally does not digest beans very well. That’s why she cut them out. Personally, I love my beans. Dr Joel Fuhrman says they’re the healthiest filler food you can choose.

    valarcher | Reply

  22. Some personal trainers are experts in nutrition, some aren’t. If we all knew everybody out there well enough to judge and make sweeping statements, it would be a tiny world :-) . Interesting information though, thanks.

    angie | Reply

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