If your workout results goal involves weight-loss or muscle-building, which are both achieved by changing your body composition, it can be especially difficult to do. It can be discouraging to spend hours in the gym and see no visible results after months of work. And while some factors at play (like genetics, mental health, and anything that impacts your hormones) can be hard to overcome and may need to be addressed by a doctor before you can start to see a change, there are some things that most people can do to help move beyond a roadblock and get closer to their goals. Read here what you might be doing wrong and how to fix it!
WHAT AM I DOING WRONG?
1. Relying solely on cardio for weight loss.
If your longterm weight loss effort focuses only on cardio and your diet is on point, then, yes, you are likely to lose weight, but you will also be losing muscle. By doing that, you are not contributing to preserving your muscle mass, which is responsible for accelerating your metabolism and burning fat. When you lose lean body mass it stalls your metabolism and your body will become less efficient at burning fat and losing weight and will get weaker. So while cardio can be a great place to start, combining it with strength training is essential if your goal is to lose weight and burn fat.
2. Not pushing yourself enough and/or going way too hard.
Most people are working out at the wrong intensity. They are either working way too hard, or just not pushing themselves enough. The foundation of your fitness routine should be workouts that are comfortably hard. Your effort, on a scale of 1 to 10, should be at about a 6. Do high-intensity workouts only 2 or 3 times a week (depending on your fitness level/experience) and make sure those workouts are shorter. They should be done at an effort level of about an 8 on a 1-10 scale and include rest periods.
3. And doing tons of high-intensity workouts before your body is ready.
While there is a time and place for high intensity, keep in mind that building a strong aerobic base — which is crucial for cardiovascular health — is just as important, and is what allows you to do those higher-intensity workouts. Exercising at a moderate intensity is also technically the ‘fat burning zone’ and puts less stress on the body over longer periods of time.
4. Lifting weights really fast.
It is commonly assumed that faster is better when it comes to working out; the faster you run, cycle, or dance, the more calories you burn. However, that doesn’t necessarily apply to strength training. Often times, slower is more effective. When you work slower, momentum isn’t assisting you as much, and therefore your muscles are forced to work harder. As an added bonus, there’s less risk of injury.
5. Not eating enough fat.
Eating fats will help give you consistent energy throughout your day and support hormonal levels that will help you get the most out of your workouts in terms of improved recovery time between workouts, reduced inflammation, and lean muscle gain. Fats also help regulate blood sugar and help you stay satiated.
6. Overestimating the number of calories you’re burning.
People think they burn a lot more calories than they actually do! Sometimes people will think that the one-hour class they take has burned 1100 calories, or that their 20-minute high-intensity workout is burning 600 calories. But most people who are exercising for general health and fitness and weight management aren’t likely to burn anywhere near that.
Unless you’re an elite athlete or working out over an hour per day, I recommend not counting more than 300 calories coming from fitness towards your overall intake.
7. Working out on an empty stomach.
Not fueling up or eating properly beforehand can seriously affect your performance during a workout. Having a full tank allows you to perform better and go harder, which means better results. Think of it like a high-performance car that has no gas in the tank.
8. Following quick-fix diets or using “miracle” supplements.
Although there are some supplements that have been scientifically validated to aid in health and performance, there is no supplement you need to take in order to improve your general health and physical appearance. The two things you do need to do for those goals, however, are:
* Participate in some form of physical activity.
* Eat mostly foods based on fruits and vegetables and on high-quality meats, eggs, and fish (or protein substitutes, for vegetarians and vegans). Limit your intake of refined foods, simple sugars, hydrogenated oil, and alcohol. And don’t overeat.
Remain skeptical of ‘magic’ and ‘miracle’ claims, and avoid being taken in by marketing hype.
9. Doing countless crunches to get rid of belly fat.
Your abs are muscles that will get stronger as you exercise. But doing hundreds of crunches is not an effective way to get rid of belly fat. Instead, incorporate plank variations and compound exercises like goblet squats, deadlifts, push-ups, and fat-burning moves like burpees, and plyometric exercises to your full-body workouts. These exercises strengthen the core and will help burn overall body fat.
HOW CAN I FIX IT
1. Prioritize sleep.
Weight loss especially is impacted by so many more factors than just diet and exercise. Getting poor sleep can sabotage your weight-loss efforts in a few ways. Being sleep-deprived impacts the hormones that control appetite, urging you to snack—and prompting you to reach for quick energy, aka highly caloric sugary and fatty foods. Lack of sleep can also slow down your metabolism and simply leave you with too little energy to work out. Establishing a relaxing bedtime ritual, leaving electronics outside the bedroom, and quitting caffeine after 2 P.M. are all easy ways to help improve your sleep habits.
2. Try something completely different.
If you are somebody who does the same thing every time and you have been doing that for years, then you need to completely switch it up. When your body gets used to the same movements, it no longer has to adapt to keep up. During physique changes and body composition changes, your body is adapting. When you’re trying to make progress, you always want your workout to feel challenging. The second it becomes comfy or you feel like you can coast, your body is not making any adaptations. The way to force your body to adapt is by getting outside of your comfort zone.
3. Make small but meaningful changes to your current routine.
Sometimes tweaking your go-to workout (as well as adding some completely new exercises) can make a difference. Lifting heavier than normal, or working out for longer, can both be helpful changes. Make sure you’re only changing one thing at a time and be very specific. Make two minor adjustments at most, but you never want to change too many things at once otherwise you put yourself at risk of doing something well beyond your capability.
4. Take active recovery days.
Active recovery is any workout that gets you moving but still lets your muscles recover fully—which is important so your body can reap the benefits of exercise without getting too burned out. A slow run, long walk are all great forms of active recovery. This is a great way to keep your body moving (and burning more calories than you would if you took a full-on rest day) while still giving your body and mind a much-needed break from strenuous activity.
5. Do more Yoga
People often say they don’t go to yoga because they ‘aren’t flexible enough to do yoga. This is such a misconception! Aside from the fact that the physical component of yoga is only one piece of the amazingness that is yoga, even if we are talking about the physical practice, being super flexible is not a prerequisite. The idea is to connect mind and body — to truly listen to your body and move with breath.
There’s nothing in there that says you have to be able to touch your toes or stand on your head or backbend like crazy. Sure that can come with time and practice but it might not and that’s OK, too.
If you are willing to step on your mat with an open mind and willingness to explore your breath and movement, you can do yoga.
6. Work out less often.
This might sound counterintuitive, but if you’re working out so often that you’re feeling burnt out, you may not really be getting much out of some of those workouts. Fitness pros emphasize the importance of taking a break so your body can recovery properly and so you have enough energy to come back to your next workout full force. If you’re hitting the gym every single day and feeling exhausted, take a day off, get some rest, and see if it helps your subsequent workouts become more efficient.
7. Have fun.
Finding a workout you actually like and have fun doing will benefit you in countless ways. A few big ones: You’re way more likely to stick with it, and you’ll maximize the stress-relieving abilities of exercise. “There’s a difference between fitness for results and fitness for fun, and I think having a really healthy balance of the two is key for sustained health and progress,” Aguiar says.