Three Reasons You’re Not Burning Fat


Do you feel you are doing everything under the sun to change your health and fitness lifestyle, but not seeing the scale drop? It can be frustrating, but it’s important to remember some simple fundamentals that perhaps are not TRULY understood. Rethinking some of these simple concepts with simple enough application can redefine your results.

Problem No. 1: You’re metabolically inflexible 

Are you trying to diet in some form or another and the scale is just not budging despite your best efforts? Do you also notice that when you eat carbohydrates, you balloon up and feel a little ‘off’? Perhaps when you try to focus on burning fat, you feel like you end up losing muscle fullness and size, but when you try to build muscle, you instantly seem to gain fat?

Solution: You might not be fat-adapted, or what I like to call, metabolically flexible.  

What does this mean? It denotes the body’s ability to adequately shift fuel systems, hallmarked by an ability to burn dietary (and body) fat for energy, as well as the ability to utilize carbohydrates (both dietary and in the form of stored glycogen) for energy.

This advantageous metabolic state has numerous health benefits, but also further drives your ability to burn fat. Retraining this state can involve a temporary lower carb phase, increasing dietary fat intake somewhat, potentially including some intermittent fasting, or even simply shifting high and low calorie/carb days depending on activity level. This is the main result people SHOULD be chasing with the popular keto diet: metabolic flexibility.

Problem No. 2: You’re not eating quality food. 

This one’s even simpler. Your food choices suck, or your food sourcing sucks. You don’t have enough nutrients to fuel the body, or maybe your body isn’t even recognizing your food as food fully, thus limiting fat loss.

Solution: Eat real, nutrient-dense food. 

Aim for organic, free-range, grass-fed, wild-caught wherever relevant and possible to deliver the prime level of nutrients to your body. This may not sound like a revelation because it’s not. It just gets overlooked. Food is not necessarily just food these days with genetic modifications, weird additives, poor farming practices, etc.

Problem No. 3: You’re eating too much or not enough. 

Another non-revelation, but something that still happens, especially in folks who don’t like to track calories or macronutrients (grams of carbs, protein, fat). If you eat too much chronically, you’re going to gain weight. If you under eat chronically, you’re going to have metabolic issues and eventually plateau and stop burning fat. Both can contribute to unhealthy states, too.

Solution: Eat for your body/goal/exercise demands. 

There can be some nuance to be clear, but I’ll keep it simple for you: eat less on days you rest or do less intense cardio; eat more on days you do resistance training, sprinting, or intense met-con type sessions. Eating less (particularly less carbohydrates) on rest/oxidative days (like long, endurance training) when it’s safer to be in a deficit is ideal. Eating more (and for many, more carbohydrates) on resistance training days when it’s needed to facilitate proper recovery, growth, etc.

There you have it: a few simple, but key concepts to remember if you’re not seeing progress. But don’t forget, the scale doesn’t tell the whole story. If you’re doing everything right, you could be experiencing some body re-composition (lean muscle growth with fat loss concurrently). This means that you shouldn’t just go by the scale (unless you’re in a weight class-based sport). Body fat analysis tests, examining how your clothes are fitting, and mirror tests are all great options for measuring.

Sometimes, you don’t want to outsmart your body. Master the fundamentals with true understanding and you’ll be shocked how your body rewards your efforts.

By Matt Cooper, CFNC