You kicked up your workout routine, squeezing in a few solid days a week of sweat, and eating a balanced diet filled with plenty of nutritious foods. 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 shows that when some individuals lose Weight from exercise alone, most people do not. There are a lot of factors that come into play when it comes to weight loss, including some lifestyle choices and health habits that can cause you to 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’re giving the number on the scale too much credit.
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 different measurements of exercise working—weight isn’t the sole measure of success.”
2. You’re consuming more calories than you’re burning.
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 begin training, your body starts burning a lot of 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 much of calories you burn during a Gym session, still as following your food intake. Fitness trackers, like the Apple Watch and Fitbit, will tell you calories burned 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 obtaining healthy or becoming stronger or increasing athletic ability—not doing it with great care you’ll eat even more.”
3. You might have a health issue.
If you’ve extremely been training, feeding right, and obtaining enough sleep, But notice that your weight simply keeps creep up, you may need to check 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.
4. Your pre- or post-workout snacks aren’t the simplest decisions.
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 have something. Machowsky says many of us absorb too much additional calories just because they’re attempting to eat a snack among thirty to sixty minutes of their exercise. 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 utmost hunger tends to cause individuals to engorge, says Machowsky, so keep your satiety levels in check.
5. You’re eating too much protein or carbs.
Marathon runners might need to carbo load before the big day, but if your runs last less than an hour, you don’t necessarily need to fill up on carbs—the same goes for protein. Most Americans truly already get enough Protein in their diets, says Armul, therefore you don’t have to focus such a lot on obtaining a lot of it—even if you’re weight exercising or HIIT-ing it more. “People love to talk about protein because it is essential, but if you eat too much, you’re going to gain weight, as it will be extra calories,” she says.
6. You’re not drinking enough water.
“I suppose most of people forget how much additional fluid they have for exercising—you have to be compelled to check that you’re maintaining along with your liquid desires,” Armul says. We often mistake thirst for hunger, so plan to ramp up your water intake as your pump up your workouts.
7. You’re not lifting weights.
Cardio will increase your metabolism moore, spiking hunger levels, but weight training offers a strong way to counteract that, says Armul. “Plus, once you gain muscle from lifting, you truly burn additional calories at rest,” she says. “Lifting weights tends to not boost appetite the maximum amount as cardio, and it will increase resting rate by accumulating lean muscle mass.” Even greater, concentrating on strength exercising will help you live longer—which is an even better pay-off than shedding a few pounds.