You started your exercise routine, squeezed a week of sweat in a few solid days, and a balanced diet full of nutritious food. You feel like you’re well on your way to tipping the scale, but when you finally step on, the numbers say otherwise.
Well, listen up: You’re not alone. Research indicates that while some individuals lose weight alone as a result of practice, most individuals do not. There are many variables involved in weight loss, including some lifestyle decisions and health practices that can lead you to lose weight put on pounds even when you’re putting in the work. Here are some reasons you might not be seeing the results you wanted from your workout:
1. You might have a health issue.
If you’ve really been exercising, eating right, and getting enough sleep, but notice that your weight just keeps creeping up, you might want to see a doctor, says Machowsky.
Thyroid problems and certain medications can cause you to gain weight, no matter how much time and effort you put into eating healthy and working out. So if you’re feeling extra frustrated, don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor. They can rule out more serious health problems.,
2. You’re giving the number on the scale too much attention.
There are a variety of reasons you shouldn’t mind the number on the scale as much. There are days when you eat and drink differently, sweat more because of the workout you’re doing or the temperature outside, sleep less from stress, etc. The list goes on. The number on the scale could teeter for all of these reasons.
Instead, take a step off the scale and assess the other benefits you might have gained from your newfound exercise routine. Do you have more energy? Do your clothes fit a little looser? Do you feel stronger carrying groceries or putting a suitcase in an overhead bin? Are you feeling all-around happier, more motivated, or less stressed? Did your overall health improve? These are the benefits of exercise that matter more than the pounds you’ve lost—and that should keep you motivated.
“It’s ultimately about how you’re feeling,” says Jason Machowsky, RD, CSCS, clinical supervisor of performance services at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. “Look for other measurements of exercise working—weight is not the only measure of success.”
3. You are not lifting weights
Cardio raises your metabolism more, spiking rates of hunger, but weight training provides a powerful way to counter this, Armul suggests. “Moreover, you’re actually burning more calories at rest when you gain muscle from lifting,” she suggests. “Lifting weights tends not to increase your appetite as much as your cardio, and it improves your metabolic rate by accumulating lean muscle mass.” Even better, concentrating on strength training can assist you live longer— and even better pay-off than shedding a couple of pounds.
4. You’re eating more calories than you’re burning.
It’s super common for your appetite to turn up just as your fitness hits full blast, says Torey Armul, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In fact, a June 2019 study from the Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people tend to lose less weight than expected when they exercised because of an increase in appetite—and an increase in energy intake.
“When you start working out, your body starts burning more calories,” Armul explains. “And when you burn more calories, your body naturally wants to compensate by eating more calories to make up for what you’re burning.”
What’s more, people tend to overestimate how much they burn in a workout. Armul suggests keeping logs of how many calories you burn in a gym session, as well as tracking your food intake. Fitness trackers I.e Fitbit and Apple Watch will guide and tell you calories burnt during exercise, while weight loss apps like MyFitnessPal offer easy food recording. You definitely don’t need to write down these numbers for months, but try a week or two just to see how your stats line up.
Armul also says it’s a red flag if you’re exercising only so you can eat more. “That’s a good theory, but you don’t want to use eating as an excuse to exercise,” she says. “Make the goal getting healthy or fit or increasing athletic ability—not doing it just so you can eat more.”
5. Your before or after workout snacks are not the perfect choices.
As your appetite increases from burning more calories, it’s easy to reach for pre-packaged and processed foods that contain simple sugars, says Armul. But instead of filling your hunger with chips, cookies, or crackers, go for healthy post-workout snacks, such as fruits, veggies, lean protein, and healthy fats, so you get filling nutrients and likely in smaller portions.
While it’s beneficial to eat something after a workout to recover and rebuild, you don’t always have to consume something. If you ate lunch or a mini meal an hour before you exercised, you probably don’t need something post-sweat, too.
On the flip side, if you don’t eat before your workout because you’re waiting for that post-activity re-fueling window, you might be left absolutely starving after exercise. That’s also a safe bet for gaining weight. Reaching a state of extreme hunger tends to cause people to overeat, says Machowsky, so keep your satiety levels in check.
6. You are eating too much carbohydrates and proteins.
Marathoners may need to load carbohydrates prior to the actual big day, but if your runs last less than an hour, you don’t necessarily have to fill in carbohydrates— the same goes for protein. Most Americans actually already have enough protein in their diets, Armul says, so you don’t have to concentrate so much on having so much of it — even if you’re weight training. “People like talking about protein because it’s vital, but if you consume too much, you’ll gain weight because it’s going to be additional calories,” she suggests.
7. You are drinking very little water.
“I believe individuals forget how much more fluid they need to exercise— you need to make sure your liquid needs are met,” suggests Armul. Almost always we, mistake hunger for thirst so plan to increase your water consumption as your workouts are pumped up.