- When it comes to weight loss, every single calorie counts, including the ones you can’t or don’t want to remember.
- The other 23 hours outside of the gym have much more of a profound impact on your life than the 60 minutes you spend under a bar.
- If you’re only looking at the number on the scale but not considering your body composition, energy levels, or performance markers than you’re rather close minded when it comes to your fitness or health goals.
- Remember, all calories count and you can’t just out exercise a poor diet or your lack of self-control when environmental and social conditions pressure you into making poor dietary choices.
New year, new you…right? But, what if your best efforts lead to frustration, stagnation, and less than stellar results?
Well, it turns out there might be a variety reasons why you’re not acquiring your fat loss goals. Despite what most folks assume, there are a number of factors that can go wrong despite keeping track of your weight, exercising, and trying to live a healthy lifestyle.
You Think Calories Don’t Count
Simply put, you can’t outrun the first law of thermodynamics because you don’t think it applies to you.
Most run into this issue when they adopt a diet (i.e. paleo, Atkins, south beach, etc.) that doesn’t account for calories and makes them believe they can eat as much as they want.
Outside of an accurately diagnosed medical condition, you’re not losing weight because you’re eating too many calories, simple as that. It’s not because of an underactive thyroid, “slow” metabolism, or any other medical ailment that is commonly associated with a lack of weight loss.
Takeaway: Until you have an accurate idea of your caloric intake and basal metabolic rate, you can’t automatically assume that calories aren’t the issue. Just because a food is “paleo approved” doesn’t mean you can eat as much as you want.
Your Lifestyle Habits Aren’t Synergistic With Your Goals
In our current society it’s almost impossible to not live a high stress lifestyle. When stress enters the equation certain hormones become elevated both acutely and chronically.
Acute elevations are normal during the alarm stage of stress as adaptation occurs in the short term. However, when levels remain above baseline for excessive amounts of time, it becomes an issue to both your health and weight loss in the long run.
Stress is a highly individual event and everyone interprets things in a slightly different manner. In other words, certain situations are more stressful for some individuals than others and it’s highly dependent upon your psychological approach to the event.
For example, your daily commute to work may be an extremely stressful event if you’re constantly short on time, rushing through your morning, and trying to avoid your boss as soon as you walk through the door.
Takeaway: The other 23 hours outside of the gym have much more of a profound impact on your life than the 60 minutes you spend under a bar.
You’re Not Sleeping Enough
Sleep is one of the most neglected and important variables when it comes to muscle gain, fat loss, or any other adaptive recovery process the body must undergo.
It’s tough to put an exact number on the amount of sleep you need each night but suffice it to say, if you need an alarm clock to wake up, you’re not getting enough sleep.
We know that a single night of sleep deprivation can alter a variety of metabolic processes including insulin sensitivity.4 Not only that, less sleep can influence the incidence and severity of workplace injuries.2
I would be willing to bet that you would likely find the same is true within a gym setting as well.
In a recent study of dieters lacking sleep, fat loss was decreased by 55% and muscle loss was increased by 60%.1 If your goal is weight loss while retaining the highest level of muscle, then you should make sleep a top priority.3
If you’re looking for further tips to improve your sleep hygiene, check out this article: Hacking Your Sleep 101: Nine Tips For Better Gains.
Takeaway: Sleep is more about quality rather than quantity so you should ensure that you limit external stressors, attain adequate amounts of critical nutrients which promote deep sleep (e.g. magnesium, HTP, tryptophan, etc.), and also maintain a proper sleep environment.
You’re Too Focused on the Scale
If your only focus is the transient number that pops up each morning, you’re going to have a tough time accurately quantifying your progress. You have to remember that weight training can influence body composition without a subsequent change in your absolute weight.
Besides that, carbohydrates, salt, and water can drastically affect your weight on any given day. Every gram of glycogen stores about 3 grams of water so what happens if take in a higher percentage of carbohydrates than normal?
You’ll likely wake up slightly heavier from the increased glycogen load but there won’t be an actual change in lean or adipose tissue.
Takeaway: If you’re only looking at the number on the scale but not considering your body composition, energy levels, or performance markers than you’re rather close minded when it comes to your fitness or health goals.
Your Memory Fails You
Most individuals aren’t very good at keeping an accurate mental log of their food intake. The average consumer under estimates and typically under reports calories as they don’t account for snacks, condiments, beverages, or simple “taste tests” throughout the day.
Not only that, most individuals are very poor judges of portion sizes given the excessively large amounts of food served at most restaurants these days.
Don’t feel compelled to eat everything on your plate, restaurants will continue to make portion sizes larger and larger despite the declining health of the consumer.
Takeaway: When it comes to weight loss, every single calorie counts, including the ones you can’t or don’t want to remember.
You Use Exercise as an Excuse to Eat More
In all honesty, exercise doesn’t burn that many calories. For example, one study found that deadlifting 385 for 4 sets of 8 reps only burned roughly 100 calories.5
385 isn’t a light weight by most folk’s standards and there aren’t many who could throw it around for 4 sets of 8. Even then, 100 calories isn’t much, you could easily eat that back with a few bites of ice cream or a donut.
Often times, people get into the dangerous habit of assuming exercise gives them more leniency to eat higher quantities of “bad” foods (i.e. those higher in calories, lower in fiber, and generally devoid of micronutrients) or they intrinsically compensate by just eating more food in general.
I’m sure you’ve heard statements such as: “I deserve some of (insert X or Y food here) because I worked out today” or ”I ate ‘clean’ all week so I can have a cheat day today and not worry about it.”
At the heart of both mentalities is the idea that exercise somehow allows you more leniency with your food choices because of metabolic adaptations.
There is a small nugget of truth in the sense that more muscle mass equates to a higher metabolic rate and thus you will need to eat more calories than sedentary individuals in order to maintain your bodyweight.
However, this can be a slippery slope especially if you’re not counting calories and you don’t have an accurate grasp on how many calories exercise actually burns.
Takeaway: Remember, all calories count and you can’t just out exercise a poor diet or your lack of self-control when environmental and social conditions pressure you into making poor dietary choices.
Do More and Eat Less? Not Always…
You should always start with the basics: calories. If you have absolutely no idea why you’re not losing weight then start there. Don’t over complicate the process if you don’t have to.
However, if you’re not losing weight and you have the nutrition side of the equation under wraps then you need to examine other external lifestyle factors. De-stress, sleep well, and don’t let yourself fall into dangerous psychological traps that could derail your progress.
- Insufficient sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity
- Changing to daylight saving time cuts into sleep and increases workplace injuries
- Sleep and muscle recovery: endocrinological and molecular basis for a new and promising hypothesis
- A single night of partial sleep deprivation induces insulin resistance in multiple metabolic pathways in healthy subjects
- A three-dimensional biomechanical analysis of sumo and conventional style deadlifts