Losing weight is a commendable goal with plenty of health benefits, and exercising is a great way to work towards your targets. However it is incredibly common for the scales not to budge for a few days or even weeks, which causes many of us to be discouraged. It is important to keep in mind that no matter what the scales say, you are accruing a variety of health benefits such as disease prevention, longevity, self-esteem, quality of life, and higher energy levels. As for your weight loss, the factors listed below may be why your workout isn’t working.
You do the same workouts
Our bodies are highly intelligent machines which learn to become efficient at what they regularly do. This means you will burn fewer and fewer calories every time you do the same workout, for instance cycling the same path or repeating the same exercise routine. Therefore you need to mix up your workouts and challenge your body in different ways to sustain maximum calorie burn.
Practise a combination of weight training and cardiovascular exercise (also known as cardio or aerobic exercise). Cardiovascular exercise is incredibly helpful for burning fat, while weight training keeps your metabolism elevated which helps burning even more calories. Make sure you practice both types of exercise and modify your routine regularly.
You are building muscle
Not losing weight doesn’t necessarily mean your workout isn’t producing any results. In fact, you may be gaining muscle, which would counterbalance your fat loss. This is particularly common if you recently started exercising, and it is a good thing as you are losing body fat and getting healthier. Consider switching to scales that measure variables such as fat percentage and muscle mass to assess your progress using a metric other than weight loss.
You have water retention
Water typically makes up 50 to 60 percent an adult’s body weight. Any extra water held in the body is referred to as ‘water weight’, which causes bloating and may be hiding your weight loss. While counter-intuitive, drinking water can reduce water weight as dehydration makes the body hold on to extra water to compensate for the lack of incoming water. Reducing salt intake is also helpful as too much sodium can cause immediate water retention for the body to keep a balanced sodium-to-water ratio. Additionally, make sure you have proper rest periods as over-training constitutes a major cause of water retention.
Your diet is wrong
You cannot out-train a bad diet, so keeping track of what you eat is an important factor to consider. Use food diaries and calorie counting to track your diet and ensure you are not eating too much. Stick to healthy whole foods and load up on protein to prevent metabolic slowdown and weight regain. Protein will also make you feel less hungry and have fewer cravings throughout the day.
Not eating enough is just as detrimental to your weight loss goals as your body goes into starvation mode and your metabolism crashes when you excessively reduce your calorie intake. Try making subtle drops of no more than 200 to 500 calories per day, depending on your current intake.
You are not moving enough
While exercise increases the number of calories we burn each day, it does not fully compensate for a sedentary lifestyle. Modern life often means we spend long periods of time sitting down, whether it is in front of a computer at work, in our mode of transport as we commute, or in front of the TV to relax. Unfortunately, our bodies stop making a fat-inhibiting enzyme called lipase if we sit down for longer than a few hours. So make sure you stand and stretch every hour as this could boost your metabolism by about 13%. Partake in more active post-work hobbies and swap your car for a bike to make your commute more active. Increase your daily steps by making simple changes such as walking further away to have your lunch or going to your colleague’s desk instead of emailing them.
You are stressed
Research shows that stress leads to the release of cortisol, which is responsible for increasing appetite and storing extra fat in the body. Stress can also have a direct impact on your workout by means of decreased performance, slower recovery, and a higher risk of injury. You’re at an even greater disadvantage if you are stressed about losing weight. In fact, being anxious or overwhelmed about weight loss often means swapping your workout for a more comforting glass of wine or junk food.
Learn to enjoy your weight loss journey and how good exercising makes you feel instead of jumping on the scales every five minutes. Find ways to relax on a daily basis, for instance by practising mediation or trading a few high intensity workouts for softer yoga sessions.
You drink sugary beverages
Sugary beverages are some of the most fattening food items you can find. This is does not only apply to widely known unhealthy drink options, but also to ‘healthier’ alternatives such as fruit juices and sports drinks which all contain great amounts of sugar. Alcoholic beverages such as beer and wine are also extremely high in calories so their consumption should be limited. If you are going to enjoy a weekend drink, it is best to stick to spirits (such as vodka) mixed with zero-calorie mixers.
It is worth noting that the brain does not register liquid calories, which means you will crave the same amount of food irrespective of how many sugary beverages you have.
You are not sleeping enough
Lack of sleep puts your body into a fat-craving survival mode, and also impacts your resting metabolic rate (RMR), which represents the number of calories your body burns while completely at rest. Additionally, sleep deprivation causes the excess production of a hormone called Ghrelin, which tells the body when to eat, and slows down the production of a hormone called Leptin, which tells you when you are full. This means that lack of sleep will not only make you reach for comfort foods and sugary snacks for an energy boost, it will also make you eat more and take you longer to feel full.
So make sure you get at least 7.5 hours of quality sleep per night to avoid compromising your weight loss goals.