Working Out But NOT Losing Weight? Here’s Why!

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So you’ve been working out for a while and you’re not losing weight.

I’m going to take you through the reasons why you might not be seeing the number on the scale move, and I’m going to help you overcome all of them.

Hi, it’s Ivana, helping you get fit healthy and strong at any age.

Exercise is an important part of a weight loss journey, but on its own, it’s not as important as most people think.

You’re going to understand a little bit better as I go through this video.

And at the end, I’m going to give you the most important reason why you’re working out and not losing weight. And it might come as a bit of a shock.

Are You Really Stuck And Not Losing Weight?

The first thing you need to know is are you really stuck?

Weight loss is about the number on the scale, but fat loss (and that’s what we really want) is slightly different.

Weight Fluctuations That Aren’t Related To Losing Weight

Keep in mind that your weight will fluctuate on this scale for various reasons on a day-to-day basis, hydration levels, how much undigested food you have in your system and hormone levels, particularly for women.

If you’re relatively new to weight training, or you’ve come back after a bit of a break, then you might’ve put on some muscle. Muscle is more dense than fat.

So that affects the number that you’re going to see on the scale.

Measures Of Weight Loss Progress

This is why it’s important to use other measures to track your progress, besides your weight, things like your measurements, like your waist and hips. And also just looking at how your clothes fit. Because you may be a bit leaner, but the scale isn’t showing any change yet.

Only Doing Cardio & Not Losing Weight

So let’s assume that you actually are stuck and you’re not getting any leaner.

The first mistake you could be making is only doing cardio. Now cardio can be a valuable weight loss tool, but it’ll only get you so far. So whether you’re running or doing some other form of cardio, your body eventually adapts to that routine. You’re not burning off as many calories doing the same thing. So it’s often a good idea to mix up the type of cardio activity that you’re doing in order to continue to burn further calories.

Changing Your Running Routine For Losing Weight

And if you prefer to stick to running, you can try sprints or interval training, or you can even just run faster for a shorter period of time. Now weight training is a little bit different, and I’m going to talk about that in a second.

Not Doing Weight Training

The next area that you could be making is not doing weight training.

If, for you, working out means doing a bit of cardio and then maybe some core work, then that could be stalling, your weight loss.

I’ve already talked about how cardio can be limiting, if you don’t intentionally increase the intensity of the work that you’re doing. But if you’re doing a lot of cardio and no weight training, then you can be starting to lose your muscle mass over time.

Benefits Of Building Muscle Mass

Especially as we get older, it becomes harder to maintain muscle mass. And although the amount is very small, muscle is slightly more metabolically active than fat.

So if you have a lot more muscle mass than you’re going to be burning off more calories. More importantly, if you have more muscle mass, you’re more likely to have the strength and energy to move more. And that means you’re burning off more calories and having more muscle mass does seem to affect your insulin sensitivity and how your body responds to carbs.

Reduced muscle mass, on the other hand, is associated with diabetes and obesity. So if you put on more muscle mass, you’re more likely to get the needle moving with weight loss.

You’re Not Pushing Yourself

The next reason why you’re working out, but not losing weight is you’re not pushing yourself. I’ve been working out in gyms since I was 15 years old. And I’ve seen a lot of what goes on. What many people do at the gym is not a lot different from sitting on the couch.

In many cases, they’d be much better off just going for a brisk 30 minute walk. And that’s definitely something I recommend. Rather than just kind of pottering around the gym, chatting to people, taking sips of water, and then maybe doing a few crunches at the end.

So if you actually want to get results with your workouts, you need to push yourself outside of your comfort zone a little bit. If it feels too easy, it’s really not doing a lot.

Beginners Vs More Advanced Trainees

And keep in mind that if you’re a 30 year old experienced gym goer, you’re going to have to work out a lot harder than someone who’s 50 years old and just started working out. What’s going to get that person. Results is going to be very little because they’re obviously not in the best condition. The more fit you are, the more you need to push yourself to get further results.

You actually get more weight loss results as a beginner because whatever you’re doing, your body has to adapt to it. It’s all new. And that means you’re burning more calories. It’s obviously a little bit harder for you just getting the hang of it. You’ll expend more calories doing that activity until your body adapts. So make sure that you’re pushing yourself enough for your level.

You’re Not Recovering Enough

Now here’s the other side of the coin.

You’re not recovering enough. Building and maintaining your muscle mass should be the focus of your training. Especially as you get older, you’ll start to lose your muscle mass around your mid thirties. If you don’t do anything about it and building muscle takes recovery, your muscles don’t grow when you’re actually doing the workout. They grow afterwards when you’re resting. So if you don’t get enough sleep and you don’t have enough time between your workouts.

So if you’re working out every day, seven days a week, then you’re not giving your muscles a chance to recover and grow and sleep. Especially early in the night is when your body produces growth hormone.

Growth hormone is associated with fat loss, muscle building and muscle recovery. So if you’re short changing yourself on sleep, you could be struggling to lose weight.

You’re Not Dealing With Your Stress

The next reason why you’re working out, but not losing weight could be, you’re not dealing with your stress.

When we’re under a lot of stress, our bodies produce excess cortisol.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone and it regulates metabolism. And our stress response cortisol is higher in the morning because it’s stimulating. And then it goes down over the course of the day.

For some susceptible people, chronic elevated cortisol is associated with fat stores and particularly belly fat storage (data for men here). So if you want to reduce your fat levels and lose weight, you might want to look into some stress reduction strategies.

Overeating Can Stop You Losing Weight

And remember that if you’re very stressed, you’re more likely to engage in mindless eating or binge eating.

And those are obviously going to increase the amount of calories that you’re taking in and the most important reason why you’re working out, but not losing weight is you’re relying on exercise alone.

Unfortunately, most people won’t get significant weight loss with just exercise.

Sure. If you’re a 20 something athlete and you work out two hours a day, then you probably don’t need to pay attention to what you’re eating that much. But for the rest of us, it’s a whole different story. Energy expenditure during your workout is lower than most people think.

You Won’t Out-Exercise The Food You Eat

If you’re rewarding yourself with food after your workouts, or you just have a habit of rewarding yourself with food, when you’re being good and exercising, then it’s unlikely that your calorie deficit is going to happen.

It’s much easier to take those calories in through food than it is to burn them off through activity.

Focus On Your Nutrition To Keep Losing Weight

Longterm success with weight loss requires some attention to be paid to your nutrition. It’s really hard to get around that.

I’ve gone through this in a few of my other videos, but for most people, the nutrition side is going to represent 80 to 90% of your weight loss success.

So if you’re relying on just exercise, that could be the reason why you’re not losing weight.

Strategies For Losing Weight

So what do you do to actually get that weight loss going?

Don’t give up on the exercise. I think it’s really important, but it’s important to keep track of what you’re eating. Sometimes our appetite increases when we’re exercising regularly. So if you’re not tracking what you’re taking in, in terms of food, you could be eating more than you were eating before. You’re basically ending up just at maintenance again.

Search this website for more information about evidence-based weight loss.

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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