Exercise leaves you exhausted instead of energized.
Exercise should make you feel good and give you an energy boost. Yes, you might feel tired or fatigued right after a tough workout, but if you leave the gym exhausted, tired or generally feeling like you could go home and take a nap, it might be a sign that you’re overdoing it. If you’re not getting that feel-good endorphin rush that’s one of the awesome by-products of being active, it’s time to take a look at your training and see what your body may be telling you!
You get sick easily (or it takes forever to get over a cold).
When you exercise regularly, your body is constantly spending energy and working to repair those muscles. This means that when you come in contact with a bacteria or a virus, your immune system isn’t able to give 100 percent to fighting off that cold or flu. So you get sick and can stay sick longer if you don’t give your body the time off it needs to take care of itself. Remember, your body is an amazing machine that does much more than just power your workouts!
You have the blues.
Do the workouts you used to love feel more like a chore than anything else? Or do you generally feel down and unmotivated? It may seem counterintuitive since exercise has been shown to boost feel-good endorphins, but overtraining has been linked to a decrease in energy and mood. So if you have the blues, letting your musclesrecover for a few days and getting really good sleep might be just what your body really needs. Of course, if you are severely depressed, see your doctor.
You’re unable to sleep or you can’t seem to get enough sleep.
How are you sleeping lately? Is your mind racing when your head hits the pillow? Are you unable to fall asleep no matter how many sheep you count or how tired you feel? Are you on the other end of spectrum where no matter how many hours of sleep you clock, you still feel tired? Both of these can be caused by overtraining. When you exercise too much, your body can interpret it as a stressor, sending out stress hormones like cortisol that can make going to sleep difficult. On the flip side, overtraining can actually make some people more tired than normal. Sleep is a time when the body and brain recovers, and if you’re pushing it too hard, your body might be telling you that it needs more rest that you’re giving it.
You have ”heavy” legs.
You used to go out for a walk or a jog with a spring in your step! But these days? It seems as if your legs have been traded out for heavy lead; it takes a lot more effort to get going and stay going. Sound familiar? If so, overtraining may be wreaking havoc on your body. Heavy, tired and overly fatigued legs (or arms) can be caused by muscles that just haven’t had enough time to fully recharge and repair.
You have a short fuse.
If the smallest things set you off or if you’re feeling more irritable than normal, it could be due to over-exercising. When we’re tired and worn down, it’s far easier to let the little stuff get to us than it would if we were well rested. Think of exercise like spending too many hours at work on a big project for weeks at a time. Sometimes you just need a vacation and a break for some rest and relaxation!
You’re regularly sore for days at a time.
We all know that muscle soreness is a good thing. It means that we’ve really challenged ourselves and that our bodies are working hard to make us stronger and fitter. But if you’ve been doing an activity or exercise for awhile but tend to get sore really easily—or stay sore for more than 48 hours—it’s probably a sign that you overdid it and next extra rest. This is why it’s so important to ease into exercise, adding time or intensity slowly over weeks instead of all at once. The body simply needs time to adapt and improve!
If you have any of these signs, it’s probably worth cutting back on the intensity, frequency and/or duration of your workouts. Swap an hour run for 30 minutes of easy yoga or trade that high-intensity boot camp for a long walk with your dog. While it might seem like you’re taking time off from your fitness and weight-loss goals, you’re actually doing the opposite: You’re making yourself stronger by giving your body the rest that it’s (subtly) asking for!
Exercise leaves you exhausted instead of energized.
Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it causes water loss and dehydration. Along with this water loss you lose important minerals, such as magnesium, potassium, calcium and zinc. These minerals are vital to the maintenance of fluid balance, chemical reactions, and muscle contraction and relaxation.
Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram and offers NO nutritional value. It only adds empty calories to your diet. Why not spend your calorie budget on something healthier?
Alcohol affects your body in other negative ways. Drinking may help induce sleep, but the sleep you get isn’t very deep. As a result, you get less rest, which can trigger you to eat more calories the next day. Alcohol can also increase the amount of acid that your stomach produces, causing your stomach lining to become inflamed. Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to serious health problems, including stomach ulcers, liver disease, and heart troubles.
Alcohol lowers your inhibitions, which is detrimental to your diet plans. Alcohol actually stimulates your appetite. While you might be full from a comparable amount of calories from food, several drinks might not fill you up. On top of that, research shows that if you drink before or during a meal, both your inhibitions and willpower are reduced. In this state, you are more likely to overeat—especially greasy or fried foods—which can add to your waistline. To avoid this, wait to order that drink until you’re done with your meal.
Many foods that accompany drinking (peanuts, pretzels, chips) are salty, which can make you thirsty, encouraging you to drink even more. To avoid overdrinking, sip on a glass of water in between each alcoholic beverage.
Skipping a meal to save your calories for drinks later is a bad idea. Many drinkers know they’ll be having some alcohol later, whether going to a bar, party, or just kicking back at home. Knowing that drinking entails extra calories, it may be tempting to “bank” some calories by skipping a meal or two. This is a bad move. If you come to the bar hungry, you are even more likely to munch on the snacks, and drinking on an empty stomach enhances the negative effects of alcohol. If you’re planning on drinking later, eat a healthy meal first. You’ll feel fuller, which will stop you from overdrinking. If you are worried about a looming night out with friends, include an extra 30 minutes of exercise to balance your calories—instead of skipping a meal.
What are more important, calories or carbs? You might think that drinking liquor is more diet-friendly because it has no carbohydrates, while both wine and beer do contain carbs. But dieters need to watch calories, and liquor only has a few calories less than beer or wine. Plus, it is often mixed with other drinks, adding even more empty calories. Hard liquor contains around 100 calories per shot, so adding a mixer increases calories even more. If you are going to mix liquor with anything, opt for a diet or club soda, instead of fruit juice or regular soda. Sweeter drinks, whether liquor or wine, tend to have more sugar, and therefore more calories. In that respect, dry wines usually have fewer calories than sweet wines.
The list below breaks down the number of calories in typical alcoholic drinks. Compare some of your favorites to make a good choice next time you decide to indulge in a serving of alcohol.
DrinkServing SizeCaloriesRed wine5 oz.100White wine5 oz.100Champagne5 oz.130Light beer12 oz.105Regular beer12 oz.140Dark beer12 oz.170Cosmopolitan3 oz.165Martini3 oz.205Long Island iced tea8 oz.400Gin & Tonic8 oz.175Rum & Soda8 oz.180Margarita8 oz.200Whiskey Sour4 oz.200
Alcohol can easily be the enemy when it comes to weight loss. It adds extra calories to your diet, encourages you to eat more food, and alters the normal digestive process. Not only are the extra calories a hindrance, but the changes in food breakdown sends turns those extra calories into unwanted body fat. Alcohol does have a bad reputation when it comes to weight loss, and rightfully so, so be smart about your alcohol choices if you’re watching your weight. This article has been reviewed and approved by SparkPeople’s nutrition expert Becky Hand, MS, Licensed and Registered Dietitian.
Whether you’re tossing and turning all night thinking of everything going on in your life, or just choose to stay up till the wee hours of the night working or playing, you are missing out on one of the most powerful health and weight loss boosters around — SLEEP! Here are 5 good reasons why you need to get a good night of shut-eye.
- Lack of sleep promotes weight gain
Lack of sleep wreaks havoc on your metabolism and has negative physiological effects promoting weight gain. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology indicates that sleeping for short durations (less than 7 hours per night) is associated with future weight gain. In fact, the study showed that women who sleep less than 7 hours per night are likely to gain an extra 2.5 lbs.
- Sleep promotes more FAT burned when trying to lose weight
If you are eating clean, exercising and trying to lose weight, lack of sleep can impede your efforts. A study conducted at the University of Chicago suggests that lack of sleep reduces weight loss efforts by 55%. In addition to that, in those who slept less, only 25% of their weight loss came from fat — the rest came from loss of muscles and water (not good). Whereas, those who slept more, lost more actual fat than those didn’t.
- Sleep regulates your hunger hormone
When you compromise on sleep, your body produces more ghrelin (the hormone that triggers hunger) and less leptin (the hormone that tells you to STOP eating). Adequate levels of sleep (7 to 8 hours/night) regulate your hunger hormones, whereas 5 hours or less can promote a hormonal imbalance1. Think about it: if you’re tired, you tend to reach for food as fuel to boost your sagging energy (and tend to be hungrier thanks to ghrelin). But higher ghrelin levels are also associated with reduced energy expenditure and reduced fat oxidization. That, coupled with the decrease of leptin that tells you to stop eating, is a potential weight gain nightmare.
- Lack of sleep depletes your body of vitamins and minerals
Vitamin C is such an important vitamin; an antioxidant, vitamin C helps to manage stress, support your immune system, slow down signs of aging caused by free radical damage, boost mood, and aid in weight loss. In fact, studies show that upping the intake of vitamin C before a workout promotes more calories burned. Vitamin C deficiency may also be correlated with weight gain. And, guess what? Sleep deprivation sucks you dry of vitamin C — along with other precious minerals, such as zinc — further compromising your immune system and contributing to weight gain.
- Lack of sleep increases risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer
Lack of sleep can increase your risk of heart disease2 3, diabetes4, and cancer.5Studies suggest women who work shift work have higher incidence of breast cancer.6 7 Melatonin, an important hormone produced during sleep, seems to inhibit the estrogen pathway, and its antioxidant activity may specifically combat free radical damage due to estrogen metabolism8. If we’re not sleeping well, melatonin production is reduced, increasing the potential risk of estrogen-related cancers.
Sometimes, people can diet and work out and track their calories and do everything right—but still not lose weight. I can’t begin to tell you how often members, friends and even acquaintances ask me why they’re not losing weight despite doing X, Y or Z. It’s one of the most common questions I get as a trainer. Sometimes, the answer isn’t that easy to come by.
But usually, when someone seems to be doing the right things but not making progress, a list of possible problems runs through my head. These are the most common scenarios I tend to see that stop people from getting results—and they could be the culprits for your weight woes, too.
So here are a few cold, hard truths about why you’re not losing weight.
You’re eating back all the calories you burn.
When you work out, you’re burning extra calories. That’s why exercise is so important in the weight-loss equation. But a lot of people overestimate how much they burn—and even use the “I exercised today” excuse to later overeat, overdrink (think alcohol) or overindulge. How many times have you faced a food temptation and thought, “Well, I worked out today, so it’s OK this time.” Or even, “I’ll have this now, but work out extra hard tomorrow to burn it off.” If that sounds all-too-familiar, this is one major reason why you’re not losing weight. For the exercise to help you lose, you can’t re-eat all those extra calories you burned. And in most cases, we overestimate how many calories we actually burned and underestimate how manycalories we’re actually eating, which means using that 3-mile walk (240 calories burned) to justify that restaurant meal (1,000+ calories, anyone?) leaves you in a worse position than if you may realize: at a calorie surplus.
The Takeaway: Exercise can help you lose when you’re really using it to burn extra calories, not as a reason to eat more.
You’re relying on exercise alone to do the trick.
Yes, exercising can help you lose weight (and it has so many other health benefits) because it helps you create that calorie deficit needs to drop body fat. But here’s the truth: Exercise alone will not help you lose weight. For emphasis, I’ll say it again. If you are relying on exercise alone to lose weight, you are fighting an uphill battle. Here’s why.
Exercise burns calories, but not as much as people think. When you consider how many calories you burn in a day, exercise burns very little. And it takes a lot of time and effort to burn even a few calories. A full hour of intense exercise may only burn 400-500 calories for a lot of people. On the flipside, it’s easy to eat hundreds or thousands of calories in even a few minutes. But it would take hours of exercise to offset those calories. If you are not changing your diet and reducing your calorie intake, exercise alone probably won’t help you much. As they say, “you can’t out-train a bad diet.” No amount of exercise can make up for a poor or high-calorie diet. You’ve got to have both (calorie reduction through diet and exercise) for optimal weight-loss results.
The Takeaway: The best way to lose weight is to cut back on what you eat and increase your burn through exercise—not one of the other.
You’re not eating as healthfully as you think.
We know that Americans and others who eat a Western-style diet have a lot of health problems—and weight problems. The vast majority of people are overweight these days. Yet research shows that the vast majority of people also think they eat healthfully and consider eating healthy a priority. Are you as confused about that as I am? Clearly, we are not eating that well if we continue to see steady increases in heart disease, type 2 diabetes, overweight and obesity.
Here’s the thing: We all think we eat pretty well. Even people who eat a pretty bad diet don’t think it’s that bad. No one really wants to admit that their diet might be pretty unhealthy. We all think we’re probably doing better than others. This is especially true if you compare your diet to what you see your friends, family or co-workers eat and consider your choices to be “better.” Whether that’s actually true or not, the truth is that the vast majority of people could (and probably should) improve their diets immensely.
The Takeaway: If you’re not meeting basic guidelines for a healthy diet(which involves way more than just counting calories alone) and/or you don’t actually track your food/nutrition to see how it all adds up in black and white, don’t make assumptions about how “good” you really do eat. Research confirms that people underestimate the quantity of food they eat, so read labels and measure.
You’re doing the wrong kinds of exercise.
If you are exercising regularly, you’re already doing a very important thing toimprove your health. But when it comes to exercising for weight loss, there’s a lot of confusion out there. One day you hear that strength training is the best way to lose weight. The next day you’re told to focus on cardio—but not just any cardio, intervals. Then you hear it has to be high intensity intervals or Tabata training. What gives?
The truth is that all types of exercise will burn calories, which can help with weightloss. But when it comes to losing weight, it’s all about burning calories. And in most cases, cardio is the calorie-burning king. Strength training is important, too (for many reasons), such as reducing the amount of muscle loss that occurs during weight loss, but it’s typically not a major calorie burner. So if you are relying almost exclusively on strength training as your weight-loss strategy, it could backfire.
The Takeaway: The best exercise plan emphasizes cardio for calorie burning, but still includes strength training to preserve lean muscle. Both are important; neither option can do everything.
You’re not being consistent enough.
When you’re struggling to lose those final 5-10 pounds or to overcome a plateau, consistency in your efforts is even more important. A lot of people stick to strict diet and fitness programs for days or weeks at a time, but their habits simply aren’t consistent for long enough. Ever eat “perfectly” and exercise “religiously” for a whole week, only to step on the scale that weekend to see that you haven’t lost an ounce? “What’s the point!” you may think as you go on an all-out eating fest and skip the gym for a couple days. Maybe you don’t even make it a few days “on track,” but rather you eat right for one day, then fall of the wagon the next.
Or perhaps you do feel pretty consistent in your habits, but the occasional slice of birthday cake or drinks with friends happens more often than just occasionally. Eating that restaurant dessert that’s 4-5 times a standard serving size (and packed more sugar and fat than seems physically possible) doesn’t really count as moderation, even if it’s the only sweet treat you’ve had all week. Moderationneeds to apply not just to the frequency of treats or rest days, but the amount, too. Practice portion control—so that you don’t go overboard and set yourself back.
The Takeaway: Eat right and exercise as consistently as possible and apply both moderation and portion control when it comes to indulging.
You’re not measuring the right things.
A lot of people complain that they’re not seeing the scale move, even though they are losing inches and clothing sizes. Despite these obvious signs that they’re getting leaner, they still want to see the scale change.
If you are noticing other improvements in your body shape or size, you are losing fat. The scale might not always reflect that you’ve lose weight—but ultimately it is the shape of your body and the amount of lean muscle vs. body fat you have that shows you’re making progress.
The Takeaway: Don’t just rely on the scale to measure your weight loss. That number won’t really tell you everything you need to know.
You don’t need to lose weight.
If you are at a healthy BMI or a body fat percentage in the healthy range, you probably don’t need to lose weight for any health or medical reasons. Still, you may want to lose some pounds for vanity’s sake, or even to improve your athletic performance. There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to lose weight when you’re already at an acceptable weight. But, when you only have only a little body fat to lose, it can be extremely challenging for some people.
Your body is usually content to be right where it is, weight-wise. For many, their body has sort of settled in to what it feels like is a good, natural weight—which may not be your ideal weight in your head. It’s certainly possible to drop your body fat percentage and get leaner, but it will often take even more dedication—and time—than it will for someone who has a lot of weight to lose. For some, it may involve dieting or exercising to extremes rather than a moderate amount. But with diligence and some experimentation, you can get there—especially if you follow the other tips outlined here (consistency being #1).
The Takeaway: When you have less fat to lose, the road may be harder and longer; consistency is key!
You have an underlying issue.
When all else fails and you’ve truly adhered to your program—and all the advice here—and you’re still not losing weight, you may secretly wish you had some kind of underlying medical problem that would explain it—a slow thyroid, some kind of hormonal disorder, or something that popping a pill could fix and then magically help melt away the pounds. While it is true that people with certain medical issues or on certain medications can have trouble losing weight, most people struggle with losing it because they struggle with consistently burning more calories than they eat. The only way to do it is to track, measure and weigh your food honestly and accurately, and burn excess calories through increased physical activity.
The Takeaway: If you’ve truly tried everything discussed here and more—and simply aren’t making progress—it would not hurt to check in with your medical provider to see if any underlying issues are at play.