Why You’re Not Losing Weight With Exercise And Diet

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It’s really frustrating when you’re exercising and following some kind of diet, and you’re not seeing the results that you’re looking for. But you might be missing some of the key points of how weight loss actually works.

There’s really only one thing that matters when it comes to losing weight. And I’m gonna tell you what that is.

Relying On Exercise Too Much

The first issue might be that you’re relying on exercise too much. Exercise helps you feel better, be less stiff and just be more healthy overall, but it doesn’t burn off as many calories as you think it does. It’s hard to give accurate figures because your calorie expenditure depends on your weight. And then the intensity that you’re working at as well.

But if you’re cycling for an hour and you’re about 170 pounds, you could be burning off about 450 calories.

If you’re running six miles per hour, which is about 10 kilometers per hour, that’s a fairly decent pace in an hour, you could burn 600, maybe 650 calories, but that’s an hour. And not everybody has time to do an hour of cardio every single day. So if we go to that general equation where losing a pound of fat requires you to have a deficit of 3,500 calories a week, which is 500 calories a day, you’re gonna have to cycle for more than an hour, a day, or run for about 45 to 50 minutes to get that level of fat loss just with exercise.

What About Weight Training?

Weight training generally burns off even fewer calories, but that’s not to say that it’s not useful. It does have the benefit of building muscle. Mass muscle is more metabolically active than fat. So it’s burning off more calories, but that difference isn’t as great as most people think you might be burning off 50 to a hundred extra calories a day by putting on a reasonable amount of muscle. And it’s not that easy to put on muscle.

I still encourage weight training of course, because it helps you feel stronger and it tends to make you more likely to move more throughout the day. If you’re carrying a lot of fat, that tissue is not active, you’re more likely to burn off more calories.

If you have more muscle mass, that extra movement is something we call neat non-exercise activity thermogenesis, and that can contribute 10 to 15% of your total calorie expenditure for the day.

How Many Calories You Expend In A Day

Your total daily energy expenditure is your basal metabolic rate.

That’s just all the metabolic processes that your body does throughout the day plus neat, which I just talked about, plus the thermic effect of food and any exercise that you do. So roughly broken down for most people as 60% for BMR, neat is 10 to 15%. The thermic effect of food te is about 10%. So that’s where the quality of your food and the macronutrient content of your food, whether it contains protein or fiber makes a difference, highly processed foods, for instance, have a lower thermic effect. It doesn’t take as much effort for your body to burn them off, but these are all relatively minor numbers.

Focusing On Nutrition Pays Off For Weight Loss

When it comes to the, the big picture in comparison to nutrition, usually nutrition will account for about 80 to 90% of your weight loss results.

Ignoring diet makes it really hard to lose weight.

It’s actually okay to skip a week or two of exercise. You don’t do as much damage to your weight as you think.

But adding too many calories for a couple of weeks, that will make an impact.

Dieting And Not Seeing Weight Loss

“But I’m dieting !”people often ask me what I recommend in terms of diet.

Is it intermittent, fasting or paleo vegan or vegetarian, the Mediterranean diet or clean eating or keto?

And the short answer is: it depends.

For me, the most important thing for lasting weight loss is consistency.

Can you maintain that diet over the long term?

How Diets Work

The only absolute requirement is that diet allows you to get into a calorie deficit so that you’re burning off more calories than your body needs on a daily basis. And that’s actually how all of those diets work. It doesn’t matter which one you’re following.

If you’re in a calorie deficit, then you’re going to lose weight, but you can also follow any of those diets and not be in a calorie deficit and not lose weight.

If you take in more calories than your body needs, then you are in a calorie surplus, and you will put on fat.

All of those diets work by getting you into a calorie deficit. There are simply strategies that you can use.

Misleading Reasons

People will tell you that they work for other reasons like insulin levels or detoxing your body, but that’s not it. When we talk about lower carb diets, they may help reduce your cravings and your appetite, and that helps you to reduce your caloric intake.

But if you still find yourself hungry on a low carb diet and you overeat, then you’ll still put on weight.

If you’re doing intermittent fasting, but you somehow manage to squeeze 3000 calories into your window. And that’s your maintenance calories. Or maybe that’s even above your maintenance calories, then you’re not going to lose any weight.

The same goes for keto or vegetarian, whatever it is.

The Myth Of Clean Eating

Clean eating is the one that I find the most annoying, I guess, because it’s such a judgment on you.

“I’m eating clean and your food is dirty.”

There’s no scientific definition of clean in terms of food, unless you wash it with soap. I guess then it’s cleaner. So people are making up these arbitrary rules about what’s clean food and what’s dirty food.

Sometimes you’re allowed to have meat, but only if it’s grass fed other times, you’re not allowed to have dairy. It just depends on whose particular clean eating regime you’re following.

None of this is scientifically tested in that way. It’s just people making judgements and then putting judgements on you for eating food that you enjoy.

And I’m not into that.

So the reason that you’re not losing weight is not because too much of your food is dirty. Now it’s because you’re eating too many calories overall. It’s certainly possible to not lose weight while following a traditional clean eating diet. There are a lot of foods that are considered very healthy.

Healthy And Calorie Dense Foods

They are healthy, that are very calorie dense. So there’s a lot of calories packed into that little serving.

My favorite example is my favorite nut. The Macadamia nut in about 10 nuts. It’s about 200 calories. And you better believe that I can eat more than 10 macadamia nuts.

Salmon, lots of healthy omega 3 fats. It’s delicious. I love it. One little filet is 280 calories. I might have two.

Was it baked on olive oil or some other kind of oil? Well oils add 120 calories per tablespoon.

A medium avocado has about 230 to 240 calories depending on who you ask. That’s considered a very healthy food. But if you put together salmon and avocado and some macadamia nuts, that’s a high calorie meal. And if you’re having that frequently, then you may very well be struggling to lose weight.

It’s not your fault because there’s the perception that if you’re eating healthy, then everything’s going to be fine.

The Key To Weight Loss Is Calories

But if you don’t pay attention to calories, then weight loss is not inevitable.

Even if you’re eating whole minimally processed foods, you can still go over your calorie intake for the day and you can be in a calorie surplus and put on fat. It’s just a little bit harder because those foods tend to be a little bit more bulky and harder to eat than highly processed foods, which are also very calorie dense and easy to eat.

I actually had a comment recently on one of my videos, it was actually about losing weight without exercising at all. And if you paid attention a little bit to what I said at the beginning, it is possible to lose weight without exercise.

This person said that they can’t exercise for a couple of medical reasons and they’re watching what they eat, but they’re not losing weight. Now, watching what I eat is very vague and it’s not enough to just kind of say, “Oh yeah, it looks okay.”

I mean, I have some veggies in there. Then some fruit. I’ve got some protein. If you don’t know the total amount of calories that you’re having for the day, then you don’t really know what it’s gonna take to be in a calorie deficit and start losing weight.

Be Specific About Calories And Macros

So it’s important to take a look at calories in some cases, macros as well.

How much protein are you getting? Is there enough fiber?

Because we talked about the thermic effective food. Protein and fiber have higher TEF and that means you’re burning off a slightly higher amount.

Eating well and eating mostly whole unprocessed foods is not always enough for weight loss. It should, of course be the basis of most nutrition plants that you come up with. If you’re creating a diet, for sure, lots of minimally processed foods, lean proteins, lots of vegetables and fruit, some seeds and nuts, those kind of things mixed in.

But if you don’t have any awareness of how many calories you’re taking in, then you can’t guarantee yourself weight loss.

Unexpected Additional Calories

And the tendency also, when someone’s watching what they’re eating is that most of the time they might be eating that way, but then other things come in. They’re probably having those treat foods here and there, and they might not be aware of it. So they’re probably consuming the right amount of calories, but then they throw a few treat foods on top. And all of a sudden, they’re not losing weight.

You need to look very specifically, primarily at your diet and how many calories you’re taking in. Then you need to know how consistent you actually are with that diet, because a lot of people follow a particular plan for instance, during the week, and then on the weekends, they don’t follow it so carefully.

And all of a sudden you can easily throw in an extra 1000 or 2000 calories between delicious food and drink.

Why You’re Not Losing Weight With Diet And Exercise

I actually did another video about how you can undo all the good work you do during the week, buy what you do on the weekend.

So rather than just generally saying, oh, I’m eating clean or I’m eating mostly healthy or

“I’m following keto, but it’s not working.”

Well, you’re eating too many calories on keto and you’re not losing weight.

“I’m doing intermittent fasting, why isn’t working?”

Well, you’re eating too many calories on intermittent fasting, and it’s not enough to get you into a calorie deficit.

Exercise Isn’t The Best Way To Get Weight Loss

A lot of people rely on exercise. So sometimes they’re working out three days a week and I think that’s gonna be enough to push them into fat loss.

It generally isn’t trying useful to do weight loss just with exercise. I just hope you have a lot of time on your hands so that you can do that.

It is possible, especially for people who are younger, have lots of time to work out. You can do it, but I don’t recommend it.

Building A Healthy Lifestyle For Weight Loss

Actually, the combination of diet and exercise is gonna get you the best long term results.

That’s really what you should be aiming for. Hopefully I’ve given you a better idea of where to look.

Ivana Chapman

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Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman BSc BA CSCS is a Canadian fitness and nutrition coach, happy wife, and mom to an energetic 8-year-old boy. She is a YouTuber, writer, published fitness model, speaker, 3rd Dan black belt in Shotokan Karate, former World Cup Karate Champion, one-time marathoner, and CBBF National level Natural Bikini competitor. She loves weight training and chocolate, not always in that order of preference.
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