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Why am I Gaining Weight Even Though I’m Exercising Regularly?

Fitness, Wellness

written by Michelle 

If you’re hitting the treadmill every day and are not seeing the numbers you want on the scale, then you are not alone! Plenty of people exercise regularly and yet they still cannot seem to shed the pounds. True, there could be a genetic reason that makes it harder for a person to shed fat, but these genetic conditions are rare and it is far more likely that it is an issue with your diet or exercise, most of which can be resolved with a few simple tweaks to your regular routine. Let’s explore the most common reasons that might be preventing you from losing weight even though you’re exercising regularly.

1) You’re doing the wrong kind of exercise

Sure, you may be exercising regularly, but are you doing the right kind of exercise? While cardio is an important part of any good exercise regimen, too much or the wrong kind of cardio can actually work against your weight loss efforts, especially in the long term. Long, slow cardio sessions can increase hunger, interfere with your body’s ability to gain muscle, negatively affect your performance, and lead to overtraining. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, a workout program that includes high-intensity interval training (alternating periods of almost all-out effort with periods of recovery / low effort) and heavy, compound weight lifting is by far the best way to burn fat. This means choosing multi-joint exercises (like squats, lunges, deadlifts, rows, pull-ups, bench press, shoulder press, or military press) that involve elevated levels of effort (above 80% of your 1 RM) and a lower rep range (ideally 4-10 reps).

2) You’re eating too many calories

When you really break it down, losing weight is a simple process of calories in, calories out. The problem comes when people overestimate the amount of calories burned from their workouts and don’t create a proper caloric deficit (ideally eating at least 20% less than what you burn in a day). It’s important to understand that it’s nearly impossible to out-exercise a poor diet because the calories burned during an average workout are actually quite minimal compared to how many calories we consume from food. Moreover, exercise can increase hunger and lead to overeating, especially if we perceive the session as really hard and / or not enjoyable, causing our brains to seek a reward for the effort we have put in. This can lead to indulging in high calorie treats or consuming larger portions than we normally would.

3) You’re gaining muscle

Contrary to popular belief, muscle doesn’t actually weigh more than fat, but it is denser and can result in a ‘bulky’ appearance if it is covered by a layer of fat. So, if you are eating too many calories, along with gaining desirable muscle mass, you are likely gaining some fat as well. Again, the trick is to ensure that you are still in a caloric deficit to keep the focus mainly on fat loss vs. muscle gain. Ironically, gaining muscle is actually a really good thing, and I encourage all my clients to build as much muscle as possible because it is not only functional and attractive but it also increases your metabolic rate, which means you can actually eat more! So don’t be afraid of gaining muscle, just make sure that you are still in a caloric deficit.

4) You’re not getting enough sleep

This may seem like an odd reason to struggle with weight loss, but believe it or not, sleep deprivation can really affect your hunger and fat storage hormones. Sleep deprivation affects two hormones in your body that are responsible for controlling hunger called ghrelin and leptin, which means you will be hungrier than you normally would be. Second, sleep deprivation causes elevated levels of cortisol, which can increase appetite, and decreases your body’s ability to process sugar. Furthermore, lack of sleep can slow down your metabolism in an effort to conserve energy.

5) You’re not taking the right supplements

While supplements can’t replace a healthy diet, the right vitamins, minerals, enzymes, phytonutrients, and antioxidants can help your body process and effectively metabolize food and convert it to the building blocks needed to create a lean, fit physique. The right supplements can also help provide you with energy to perform better and work harder in the gym and to kick-start your post workout recovery. Here are three important nutritional supplements for those looking to lose fat and maintain or build muscle mass.

A high quality multivitamin/mineral supplement – A high quality multivitamin is essential for ensuring that your body has all the vitamins and minerals it needs to effectively metabolize food, properly detoxify, and maintain / build muscle mass. Unless your diet is absolutely perfect, there are likely at least a few nutritional gaps in your diet and a high quality multivitamin/mineral supplement can help fill these gaps. Ask your local Kardish store for their recommendations.

Vitamin D – If you live in Canada, you’ve likely been told by your doctor that everyone should supplement with vitamin D because studies have shown that most Canadians are deficient in this vital nutrient. It’s nearly impossible to get enough vitamin D from food alone because our bodies are designed to get most of our vitamin D from exposure to the sun. Most doctors recommend supplement with at least 1000 IUs of vitamin D a day.

A high quality, clean protein powder – If you are exercising and dieting and trying to preserve as much muscle mass as possible, it’s vital to consume enough protein. Adequate protein intake can help you stay leaner, improve athletic performance, maintain a healthy metabolism and promote satiety. An easy way to fit in the additional protein is by incorporating protein powder into your diet. Look for a high quality whey or vegan protein that is free of hormones, additives, and artificial sweeteners.

To summarize

So although exercising is a great way to assist with the weight loss, it’s important to remember that weight loss is primarily controlled through your diet and that exercise can actually work against you if you don’t approach it properly. So to summarize, make sure you are in a caloric deficit, make sure your workout routine includes HIIT and heavy compound weight lifting, and get enough sleep so that your hormones are balanced and so. your body can adequately recover from your workouts.

Michelle Vodrazka
Owner, PRO Trainer, Nutritionist

Michelle Vodrazka is an internationally recognized personal trainer, fitness instructor, nutritionist, with over 25 years of experience in the health and fitness industry. She is a national fitness competitor and best-selling author of three healthy eating cookbooks.