Are you exercising regularly, but not losing weight? Many of us commit to intense workout routines, only to find the numbers on the bathroom scale stay the same. We may even gain a few pounds, which seems counterproductive to our health and weight-loss goals.
If your primary reason for working out is to lose weight, you may be surprised to learn that exercise alone may not do it. Let’s take a closer look at the relationship between exercise and weight loss.
We’ve been taught for decades that the key to losing weight is to burn more calories than we consume. However, this is only part of the story. This emphasis on the number of calories leads many people to think that they can eat whatever they want and burn it off if they spend enough time on the treadmill. Unfortunately, this simply isn’t true. Not all calories are equal: some foods can help boost your metabolism and your brain power, while others are stored as fat. Simply put, you can’t outrun a bad diet.
Focus on losing fat, rather than weight
When we talk about wanting to lose weight, most of us actually mean we want to lose body fat. As you probably know, muscle weighs more than fat. If we’re losing fat while also building muscle mass, we may not actually lose weight. In some cases, we may gain weight. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because we’re still trimming inches and changing our body composition by losing belly fat and toning ourselves all over.
A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that the real bodily improvements that come from regular exercise occur in the form of a better body composition, healthier metabolism, and improved fitness. Weight loss may or may not happen.
Cardiovascular exercise burns belly fat
If your goal is to lose belly fat, exercise can help — specifically, cardiovascular exercise. Also referred to as aerobic exercise, cardio is anything that increases your heart rate. Swimming, running, dancing, biking — these are all great forms of cardio exercise. A study published in Obesity Reviews shows just how essential aerobic exercise is for getting rid of and preventing the accumulation of dangerous visceral fat.
Weight training boosts the metabolism
Weight training, or resistance training, is the other piece of the weight-loss puzzle. When you build your muscles by lifting weights, your body works harder for you even when you’re at rest. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fatty tissue, even long after you’ve finished your workout. That means that more muscle mass equals a higher metabolism. Resistance training is a win-win for weight loss!
Consider the many health benefits of exercise beyond weight loss
For exercise motivation, it’s important to pay attention to many, many health benefits of exercise. These benefits go far beyond weight loss.
A study published in the peer-reviewed journal Comprehensive Physiology reveals the negative effects of not exercising regularly. These include an increased risk of heart disease, obesity, osteoporosis, diabetes, and even certain cancers. The bottom line — regular exercise is essential for chronic disease prevention.
Exercise might make you hungrier
Exercise might increase your appetite, and you might end up eating more than you normally would. Studies show that we’re apt to eat more once we commit to a regular exercise routine. If you increase the amount you eat dramatically, you may lose fat and increase muscle mass, but you may not lose weight. However, if you eat just a little more, and burn many more calories than you used to, you’ll most likely lose weight.
We often reward ourselves with larger portions of food, or foods we wouldn’t normally eat, after a good, sweaty workout. If this sounds like you, pay attention. You don’t want to sabotage your weight-loss efforts in this way. If you jog for 15 minutes (roughly 200 calories burned), but then you reward yourself with a venti iced caramel macchiato (350 calories and 49 grams of sugar), you’re undoing all your hard work. Pay close attention to what you burn and what (and how much) you eat.
Exercise might also make you less hungry
Further studies explore the effects that exercise has on the hunger hormone ghrelin. It appears that immediately after exercising, this hunger hormone decreases. You’re not hungry at all, and you may even experience something known as exercise anorexia. After about a half hour or so, those hunger hormone levels return to normal, but at least you’re not going to start binge eating immediately after an intense workout.
Our eating habits after exercise vary from one person to the next
We’re all different. Some people will tend to eat more post-workout, while some won’t change their eating habits much at all. Some studies show that females might eat more post-workout than males. Others say overweight and obese individuals may have a larger appetite post-workout than leaner exercisers.
A lot of this has to do with genetics. Pay attention to how your body responds to exercise. If you get hungry, make sure you’re refueling with high-quality protein to help you build muscle — don’t load up on sugar, which will be stored as fat. You can even take a DNA test that will reveal which exercises are better for you if you want to lose weight.
At Elite Physique, we believe an equal balance of nutrition, activity, rest, and confidence is the foundation for achieving a healthier you. Our personalized weight-loss programs are custom-tailored to help you meet your goals and to address the underlying factors that can make weight loss difficult. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation!