6 reasons why you’re not losing weight when exercising

If you’re exercising often and still haven’t reached your happy weight, here are six reasons why you might not be losing weight…

Words: Josh Ivory | Photos: Shutterstock & Getty Images

Exercising for fat loss seems like it should be a pretty straightforward process, especially when you consider the ‘calories in verses calories out’ formula for weight loss – burn more calories than you consume and you will lose weight. But there’s more than just exercising regularly that’s required to maintain a healthy weight, and other factors could explain why you’re not losing weight and achieving your body goals.

Here are six reasons why you’re not hitting your goal weight and what you can do about it…

6 reasons why you’re not losing weight – despite exercising regularly

1. You’re not exercising as hard as you think

It’s not uncommon to think you’re exercising harder than you really are – but this could be why you’re not losing weight. A mistake I often see among my clients is that they consume extra calories because their fitness tracker says they’ve burnt that amount while exercising. Studies suggest that fitness trackers can overestimate calorie expenditure by 40 per cent or more. Therefore, making food choices based on ‘calories expended’ can dramatically decrease your calorie deficit. Or worse, it could take you into a calorie surplus.

This can also encourage a negative approach to exercise – punishing yourself to meet a calorie target so that you can justify a food choice. Exercise shouldn’t be a punishment. It should be something that you enjoy which makes you feel good.

2. You don’t have a programme

A structured programme (whether it’s for aerobic or strength exercise, or both) allows you to focus on your improvements and to maximise your physical adaptation over a given period of time. I can almost guarantee that following a well-structured plan will lead to changes to your body composition.

Stepping into the gym without a planned session can result in time wasting and inadequate stimuli to your muscles. Plan your sessions over the week and repeat these for a minimum of four to six weeks. Be realistic about how many exercise sessions you will do – there’s no point programming five sessions if you regularly have to miss three of them. In this case, you’d be better off scheduling two weekly sessions and hitting them consistently. As an added bonus, tracking your progress will make you feel more motivated, too.

3. Exercising too hard could be why you’re not losing weight

It’s not so long ago that the ‘no pain no gain’ mentality was deemed pretty trendy. However, the reality is that this way of thinking will likely just run your body into the ground by inducing a lot of stress on your body without giving it the opportunity to recover. What you do in the gym is obviously important but what you do outside of the gym matters just as much.

Taking time out from exercise is vital. Getting adequate rest will reset your hormones, allowing your muscles to rebuild and grow – and when you have more muscle mass, you’ll burn more calories at rest.

4. You’re feeling stressed

Cortisol is a hormone that plays a key role in your metabolic processes (the higher your metabolism, the more calories you’ll burn). It can slow down your metabolism, meaning it could play a role in why you’re not losing weight, despite exercising. Cortisol is also released by the body when you feel stressed.

When operating at its optimum level, cortisol does many wonderful things for your bodily functions. However, the chemistry is thrown out of balance as soon as you induce high levels of stress. This could be through work, relationships, finances, or anything else. Therefore, you need to do your best to control stress. Stress-reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, therapeutic massage or even listening to calming music, can help reduce your body’s physiological response to daily stressors.

5. You’re not ‘food aware’

Diet is a key factor when it comes to weight loss. You can train like an athlete but, if you have poor eating habits, you will make little progress. Simply using a macro calculator on Google can set you up on the right path. This will work out your BMR (basal metabolic rate) which will indicate how many calories your body roughly burns at rest.

To simplify, if you were to wake up and stand still all day while consuming more calories than that number, you’d gain weight. Eat less than that number and you could lose weight. Be mindful that your BMR can be impacted by activity levels. Be more ‘food aware’.

Don’t believe the hype when you see supposed health foods in your local supermarket. Often these foods are overpriced and can contain hidden calories. Use tools such as MyFitnessPal to track your food’s macro content. Even just a few days of using these will increase your understanding of what you’re putting into your body.

why you're not losing weight exercising

6.You skimp on sleep

Research has shown that a lack of sleep can hamper metabolism and contribute to weight gain. Indeed, researchers found that when dieters cut back on sleepover a 14-day period, the amount of weight they lost from fat dropped by 55 percent. Clocking an inadequate amount of sleep causes a sharp decline in secretion of the growth hormone. Growth hormone deficiency is associated with loss of muscle mass and reduced exercise capacity. Simply put, sacrificing hours of sleep to cram in extra exercising in a morning workout could be why you’re not losing weight.

Your brain and body needs to cycle through the two types of sleep, REM and non-REM, at least four times to successfully repair and rebuild. Non-REM is the most essential form of sleep for muscle growth and recovery. If you are not sleeping adequately then your body is more likely to cling onto fat. This means a lack of sleep could be why you’re not losing weight, even if you’re exercising, managing your stress levels and eating healthily.

Try to develop a bedtime ritual. Disengage from your phone and other screens at least one hour before slumber, then wind down with some breathing exercises. Also, the effects from caffeine can last up to six hours, so it’s a good idea to cut your intake of coffee, tea and energy drinks after 2pm.

Related: How to improve your gut health for weight loss

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