5 Reasons Why You’re Exercising and Not Losing Weight

Have you ever had this problem? You’re exercising regularly, both strength training and aerobic exercise, but you’re not losing weight. Even worse, you might be gaining weight despite your regular exercise sessions. You started exercising to shed those extra pounds of body fat, and they aren’t coming off. You might wonder why your efforts aren’t paying off. Don’t worry! It’s a common problem, and the lack of weight loss is usually due to one of several possibilities. Let’s look at why the number on the scale isn’t budging, and what you can do about it.

 

You’re Losing Body Fat and Gaining Muscle

Stepping on a standard bathroom scale gives incomplete information. These scales measure total body weight, weight due to fat, muscle, and bone, plus the fluid in your body. If you’re strength training, you could be gaining muscle (which weighs more than fat) while losing body fat. In this case, your body composition is improving, but the change isn’t reflected in your weigh-ins. Your weight is increasing, but it’s for the right reasons; you’re developing a healthier body composition. 

 

Is there an alternative? You could invest in a body scale to measure your body fat percentage. Although these scales aren’t entirely accurate, they’re helpful for monitoring changes. The key to getting more accurate readings is to step on a body fat scale first thing in the morning after urinating. Make sure your feet are dry too. 

 

If you won’t want to invest in a body fat scale, pay attention to how your clothes fit, and monitor the size of your waistline as a marker that you’re losing body fat. The scale is only one piece of information.

 

You’re Outeating Your Workouts

Studies show that people sometimes gain weight when they start exercising because they eat more. Research is mixed on this. Some studies even show that exercise suppresses appetite, but there are many factors that can impact the results – exercise intensity, whether you’re overweight, gender, age etc. 

 

Still, people often overestimate how many calories they burned during a sweat session and eat accordingly. There’s also the “reward” mentality. You burned 300 calories (or so you thought) doing a tough workout, and now you deserve that brownie. 

 

The reality? You burned fewer than 300 calories and that brownie contains more calories than you think. A study by researchers at the University of Ottawa found that people who ate on the basis of the calories they believed they burned consumed two to three times more than they should have.

 

You’re Sitting Too Much after Your Workouts

After a tough workout, you deserve to rest and recover, but sitting for 6 hours in a chair is overkill. That’s what many people do when they work a job, and it’s not beneficial for their waistline. Sitting also reduces insulin sensitivity, which is bad for your metabolic health. 

 

Doing an exhausting workout sounds like a positive, but if your exercise sessions drain you for the rest of the day, the lack of physical activity throughout the day may more than compensate for the calories you burned during your workout. 

 

For your health, it’s important to keep moving throughout the day and avoid the health risks of too much sitting. If you work a desk job, walk around and stretch every 20 to 30 minutes. Try to move more throughout the day, even after your workout. 

 

You’re Not Focusing Enough on Good Nutrition

Exercise is a calorie burner, and it improves body composition, but for weight loss, nutrition is at least 80% of the equation. Even the best-laid exercise plans won’t lead to weight loss if you ignore the nutrition side of the equation. It’s difficult to burn off enough calories through exercise to give you free rein to eat whatever you want. It doesn’t work that way. 

 

Don’t over restrict calories. Instead, work on improving the composition of what you eat. If you’re drinking sugary sports drinks, eating a doughnut as your post-workout snack, and eating junk food because you think exercise allows you to do that, you won’t get the results you expect from your exercise sessions. Exercise and nutrition are both important for getting fitter and leaner.

 

You’re Not Giving Your Body Enough Recovery Time

Some people believe that if they exercise, they must give every session maximum effort. So, they work out to exhaustion without giving their body a chance to recover. If you do this consistently, you can elevate cortisol, a stress hormone, that causes gains in belly fat and breakdown of muscle and bone tissue. Too much cortisol harms your physique and health, as it also disrupts your immune system and can affect fertility. It’s okay to be gung-ho but give your body a chance to recover after intense exercise sessions. Balance intense exercise sessions with lighter forms of exercise that relax the mind, like yoga, Tai Chi, stretching, or a walk in nature.

 

The Bottom Line

Patience is also a virtue. Losing weight takes time. You won’t be down 5 pounds after your first week of working out, but each exercise session is doing good things for your mental and physical health. Exercise does more than burn calories; it’ll help you stay fit, functional, and healthy. Keep at it!

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References:

“11 Ways to Stop Overeating After Your Workout | Time.” 13 Sept. 2014, https://time.com/3341969/overeating-after-your-workout/.

Berthiaume MP, Lalande-Gauthier M, Chrone S, & Karelis AD. Energy expenditure during the group exercise course BodypumpTM in young healthy individuals. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2015 Jun; 55(6):563-8.

Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: May 27, 2019 – Volume Publish Ahead of Print – Issue – doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003192.

PLoS One. 2013; 8(11): e80000.

Published online 2013 Nov 13. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0080000.

Harvard Health Publishing. “Exercising to Relax”

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