If you're planning to improve your body composition and shed some fat, be aware of common misconceptions that can do more harm than good. 

Here are five mistakes many people make, and tips on what you can do to reach your goals faster. 

Mistake #1: Crush the cardio  

Cardio actually has a one-hour threshold before it can help burn off fat. During that initial hour, your body works through its energy systems to do what you're asking it to do. The first thing it uses is stored glycogen. When that's depleted, the body finally taps into fat reserves for fuel. 

Tip: 

You'll get more bang for your buck if you swap longer periods of cardio for high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Twenty-minute intervals will burn a lot more calories, preserve your muscle mass and jack up your metabolism so you'll burn more calories throughout the day. 

Mistake #2 – You don't need to lift weights  

This is actually the opposite of what you should do to lose fat.  

Tip: 

The more muscle you have, the more calories you're actually able to burn at rest, so weight training and resistance training is really important when you're trying to trim body fat and improve composition.  

Mistake #3 – A scale tracks fat loss 

If you're measuring success by how much you weigh, you're not getting the whole story. If the numbers go lower, it could be because you're losing muscle mass or even body water.  

On the flipside, your weight might not drop as much as you want it to and you think something's wrong. What could actually be happening is you're gaining weight through more lean muscle and you're losing body fat at the same time.  

Tip: 

If you need to judge your progress in numbers, skin calipers or a scale that measures muscle and body fat can be helpful. Both are available at most GoodLife Fitness gyms. 

Mistake #4 – Eating fewer calories is the answer 

While you want to put your body into a caloric deficit so you’re burning more calories than you eat, it's more important to focus on what macronutrients you’re putting in your mouth. 

If all those calories are coming in the form of carbohydrates, those are spiking your insulin level and blood sugars. All that extra energy might also convert into body fat depending on your daily activity level and metabolic rate.  

But carbs aren’t always the enemy. They're your No. 1 source of energy. You just have to consume them in moderation while working on body composition. 

Tip: 

It's important to eat a high amount of protein to develop lean body mass. Thirty grams of protein per meal should be the initial target, along with lots of fresh vegetables and maybe a small serving of complex carbohydrates – brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes – and healthy fat. 

If you're on a plant-based diet, make sure your proteins have all of the essential amino acids and check the calories. 

A personal trainer who specializes in nutrition can help you figure out how many calories you should be eating. 

Mistake #5 – A low-fat diet is the best 

Fats are a healthy part of a balanced diet and your body needs them. Fat nourishes your brain and helps it function. If you cut fat out completely, you'll probably experience brain fog, feel groggy and get headaches. Your cognitive function also won't be as good. 

Tip: 

You should eat a moderate amount of fat from healthy sources such as wild salmon, raw nuts, seeds and avocado. Just don't overdo it.  

Foods that say low fat can also be tricky. When fat is removed from a product, something has to be added in order to make it taste good – and most often, that’s sugar.