Are you working out endlessly only to have the number on the scale never budge — or even worse, go up? This frustrating effect is actually quite common. Before you give up on working out, see if any of these reasons might be to blame.
Make sure your workouts fit your body goals. Take a look at bodybuilders, swimmers, distance runners and cycling sprinters, and you’ll notice their body shapes are very different. The style of your fitness training can dictate whether you’re breaking down tissue or building muscles and which muscle areas are targeted.
Fit bodies need fuel to burn. Having too strict of a diet while engaged in a heavy fitness routine can leave your body in conservation mode. To keep your engine burning, make sure your diet is loaded with high-quality, nutritious foods and balanced meals throughout the day. Try tracking your intake to make sure your daily calorie deficit is not too large.
Even top athletes struggle with this one, but taking time off is crucial. Chronic training can increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body, which is known to prevent weight loss, especially around the midsection. Taking a day or several off can keep hormone levels in check.
Sleep is essential for keeping pounds off. However, struggling to fit workouts in might be detrimental to your sleep schedule. Waking up earlier than your natural wake time to fit in that morning jog or having your system revved up late from an evening basketball game can mess with your sleep rhythm. Craving sugar, constant fatigue, a cranky disposition and weight gain can all be signs that you’re not sleeping enough.
Most general fitness routines do not require a high carbohydrate intake. Filling up on high-sugar sport foods can leave you craving more. While many carbohydrate-rich foods are healthful (Think: Complex carbs), your body needs extra water to process this macronutrient, which can lead to a puffy, swollen feeling and higher number on the scale. Time your carb intake to promote high energy with your training and stick to non-processed carbs (vegetables, brown rice), protein and healthy fats outside of workouts.
Cardio machines and online calculators can overestimate how much energy you’re really burning during your workout. Eating to match these numbers can have you taking in higher than necessary calories throughout the day. Also, the more trained your body, the more efficiently your body can complete workouts so less energy is burned. Invest in a fitness tracker that uses heart rate to help accurately track your burn, switch the type of workouts you do and make sure you are challenging yourself often.
The “but I earned it” mindset can get even the most fit athlete in trouble. Sure, sweating it out at the gym gives you a little diet leniency, but it isn’t a free for all. If, after each workout, you give yourself permission to have an extra latte, cocktail and dinner roll, you might be consuming more than is needed by your body and negating all your fitness gains. Tracking your intake on MyFitnessPal can provide insight into how often you’re treating yourself with food and if it is contributing to your stalled results.
Bottom line, there are many factors that can contribute to not seeing the weight loss you desire when starting a new fitness training routine. The best approach is to assess your eating, training and goals with a professional to make sure everything is working together for a successful outcome.
Another approach is to step away from the scale. Focusing only on total body weight doesn’t tell the full story of what is happening to your body composition. Periodically test your body fat composition, which is more important than total weight, and focus on how your clothes fit and how healthy and energized you feel.