5 More Reasons Functional Athletes Fail to Get Lean

Hits: 12609

One of our most successful blogs is Five Reasons Why Functional Athletes Fail to Get Lean.  We think it’s about time to provide you with five more reasons.

After all, getting your nutrition in line with your goals is an ever evolving process, and we all have room for improvement.

In the last blog, which you can read here, you learned the importance of eating a balanced diet based on real food.

You discovered the value of testing and evaluating any nutrition changes you make to determine if they are right for you.

You also realized that photos, performance, and the fit of your clothes are better measurements of success than the scale.

In this blog, we’ll discuss common mistakes made with:

  • Meal timing

  • Rest days

  • Counting calories

  • Hitting your macro targets

  • Consistency


1. Not using meal timing to ignite fat burning

With meal timing, most athletes focus on when to eat before and after their workouts.  Other than that, they follow the guidelines to eat small, frequent meals throughout the day.

Unfortunately, eating small meals throughout the day could be the reason you are not losing those last five pounds of fat.   

When you eat, your body uses the energy from that food to function.  

When you fast, your body uses stored energy from your fat cells to function.  

If you eat every two or three hours, you add fuel to the fire that is already in your belly.  Thus, you never have to tap into those fat stores.  

Our recommendation: Eat three larger meals a day instead.

If your workout is nowhere close to your next meal, you can have a recovery snack as well.  Other than that.  Put your fork down between meals.

If you want to learn more about the benefits of eating only three times a day, check out our blog Want to Get Lean Quickly? Stop Eating 6 Meals A Day.

2. Eating too little on rest days to build muscle

Do you think you need to change your nutrition on rest days?  If so, you’re not alone.  Most athletes think they should eat less.  If you think so too, this could be the reason you aren’t getting lean.

Rest days are a unique opportunity for you to build muscle.  We wrote all about the power of rest day nutrition in our blog How to Adjust Your Rest Day Nutrition.  

functional-fitness Nutrition Pinterest 5 More Reasons Fail Lean
Loving this blog? Share it now on Pinterest.

Pin It

Basically, eating on your rest days triggers your body to build muscle and prevents the breakdown of lean body mass.  The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism and the leaner you become.

Our recommendation: Fill up on healthy carbs like vegetables, beans, and fruits.  Eat lean meats like seafood, poultry, and beef. 

The only thing you should skip on your rest days are foods specific to your workouts like recovery drinks.

Everything else should be the same.

3. Counting calories as a way to manage weight

A calorie is simply a unit of measurement.  It measures the energy provided by our food in the form of carbs, fat, and protein.  

Athletes looking to get lean should care more about where their energy comes from, the balance of carbs, fat, and protein in their diets, than making sure they hit some magic calorie target.

Here are a few problems with focusing on calories:

  1. Calorie needs are calculated using overall body weight without regard to how fit an athlete is or how lean the athlete is.  A fit athlete will actually have higher calorie needs than a sedentary person of the same weight...regardless of activity level.  Yet, calorie equations don’t make that distinction.  If you base your intake on calories alone, you could be overfeeding or underfeeding yourself.  Neither one is good when trying to get lean.
  2. Not all calories are created equal.  You can meet your calorie needs on a diet of high carb foods with little fat or protein intake, but your performance and physique will suffer.  Athletes need a balance of carbs, fat, and protein which should be individualized to the athlete’s goals and fitness (lean mass).  Focusing on calories without regard to the source of those calories (the energy provided by food) will not produce results.
  3. When you base your energy intake on calories and are trying to lose weight, the only option you have is to cut those calories.  Immediately after cutting calories, you mentally shift to a place of deprivation.  Deprivation typically results in failure.  

Throw the concept of calories away, and focus on feeding your body with appropriate nutrients, you are more likely to succeed.    

Our recommendation: Focus less on calories and more on the nutrients your body needs to get lean.  

Calculate your energy needs by focusing on the macronutrient breakdown that will help you achieve your goals.  Start with protein to ensure you preserve your lean tissue.  

Carbs and fat can be determined from protein needs based on your goal of weight maintenance, fat loss, or muscle gain.  

4. Letting your macro breakdown determine how much you should eat

We love macros.  

They help athletes balance their meals and ensure they get all the nutrition their bodies need to thrive.  

In the last blog, the common macro mistake was not hitting macro targets with real foods.  

Now, we want to shed light on another common macro mistake which is hitting macro targets without thought to actual hunger.

I’ve had more than a few athletes tell me that they force feed themselves yet another protein shake because they need that extra 50g of protein for the day to hit their target.

On the other side of the spectrum, they complain of extreme hunger and deny themselves a meal because they hit their macro targets earlier in the day and have nothing left.  

Do either of these sound like you?

If your body is telling you to stop eating, and you don’t listen, all that extra energy is going to be stored as fat.  

You’ll create more fat mass.  

If your body is telling you to eat, and you don’t listen, your body will eventually slow down your metabolism. This will not happen with one missed meal or even one missed day, but repeatedly ignore your hunger cues and it will.

Our recommendation: Use your macros as a guide knowing that life will not end if you don’t hit your targets for the day.  

Get in tune with your hunger and satiety cues and use them as a tool to evaluate your food choice.

It could be how you balance your macros during the day that is the problem.  

Or it could be your macro targets.

5. Not being consistent with diet changes

I love consistency.  It is the one habit that will get you results time and again.  Yet, most athletes don’t stick to a new plan for more than a few days.  Much less, a few weeks.  

Does this sound like you?

Do you love starting a new diet or trying a new meal plan only to find that after two days you’re hungry or don’t like the food or messed up one meal and throw in the towel?  

If so, you’re not alone and welcome to the club.

One to two days of following a nutrition plan will tell you nothing.  Cherry picking the days that you feel like eating well versus eating whatever is in front of you, won’t tell you much either.  

You have to commit to the process.  

You have to commit the time.  

Only then will you get first place results and find the best nutrition plan for you.

Our recommendation: We tell all of the athletes that purchase one of our nutrition packages to follow their profile consistently for a solid two weeks.

Two weeks gets you past the first week where fluid shifts and changes to your gut microbiome can cause unpleasant side effects.  

Two weeks give you at least one full week where you can fully evaluate progress and come up with necessary adjustments moving forward.

A Dietitian’s Take

Between the two blogs, we’ve given you ten common mistakes preventing athletes from getting lean.  

Is something you’re doing right now keeping you from getting the lean, fit body you have wanted since starting to do high intensity workouts?

True body transformation requires you to focus on nutrition in terms of what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat.  You also need to apply the same mental fortitude that you do every day in your workouts to your diet.


Start with one of the recommendations above, and watch that unwanted fat melt away.

Of course, if you want more personalized recommendations, you will need a nutrition plan that gets you started today on the right track.

Sometimes life gets in the way of our best intentions and we never quite get around to consuming all of the information we need to put together an effective nutrition plan.

I get it and that is why we created our Complete Nutrition Plan. It gives you all the answers up front and instantly.

Then after you start making quality changes based off of your profile, we make sure you know how to keep the progress going with over 40 video tutorials on every topic you want. 

Pin It

Ready to get lean without sacrificing your strength?

Whether you have hit a plateau with your training or simply want to look and feel amazing all day, Nutrition WOD can help.