Weight- loss. Oh that word and the multi billion dollar industry build around it. Type “weight loss”once in your search browser and your inbox, social media sites and pretty much everywhere you look at will be just advertisement guaranteeing you fast results without doing much work. 7/10 DM’s I casually receive on my Instagram from desperate strangers trying to lose weight are mostly asking me something along the lines of “how do I lose the weight I gained over 25 years in the next 25 days without having to workout or eat healthy”.
But maybe in your case, you are genuinely putting in the work. You are actually going to the gym and woking your butt off vs strapping one of those abs- sliming belts thing around your waist and praying for a miracle. You are actually consciously eating the right food instead of relying on fit- tea’s to get you fit. And you still do not see the scale moving or your fat% dropping. I am not talking about the scale not moving because you are gaining lean mass and dropping fat, but actually legit not moving. You see no difference in your 6 week before- after pictures or maybe see some change but not enough. Chances are, you are a victim to one or more of the below five scenario’s:
1) You ‘burn’ yourself too hard at the gym: Remember the saying ‘Go Hard or Go Home’? Well unless you are training to be an athlete who does nothing but train and recover, you would rather go home. This was true for me personally for a very long time. I trained every single day like it was my last day on the planet. I would weight train intense for sometimes as long as 2 hours. Though this means burning a lot of calories, it also means I would be too tired to do anything outside of the gym. My free time would mostly consist of sitting around and not being able to move because one or the other part of my body was too sore.
Weight loss is OVERALL caloric burn and not what you burn on the gym floor alone. Lets do some math. If you train intense, you are probably burning 500 calories an hour on the floor. But because you are training so intense, you are too tired for other ADL (activities of daily living) and spend most of the day literally surviving rather than living. You refuse to play with the kids or take the dog out for a walk because you are always ‘too tired’. So you burn another 200 calories from your daily activities of basically doing nothing other than what is absolutely necessary. This brings your overall caloric burn for the day to 700. Vs someone who trains at a moderate pace in the gym for an hour burning only 350 calories. But because this has not taken such a big toll on muscles, that person is actually more active the rest of the day and even indulges in some family play time later on the day burning an extra 500 calories from ADL (activities of daily living). This brings the total caloric expenditure of the day to 850!
But what about athletes who train intense for endless hours? Well athletes also eat like athletes, supplement like athletes and sleep well to recover like athletes. You probably are bombed with the mental pressure to make money and run a family besides your fitness goals. So unless you are eating, supplementing and taking care of your mental health like an athlete, go moderate in the gym and stay physically active all day.
Solution: If you are bad at self accountability, use one of the apps to track your steps and aim for 5000- 7000 steps a day. Maybe make it an evening routine to indulge in some physical play with your pet or kids. Maybe a walk post dinner or installing one of those deskcycle things in your office. Just ensure you are consciously moving outside the gym floor.
2) You are munching on too many ‘healthy snacks’: Nuts are healthy right, so you take a handful before you leave home every morning. You feel an evening hunger pang and grab those nuts you stored in your office desk because they are healthy. Not before you know, you have had 1/2 cup of dried fruits and nuts in the name of health. Now you wonder why you are not losing weight.
Let’s do some more math. My BMR (calories I burn while at rest) is about 1400. So If I also eat 1400 calories, I will not lose nor gain weight. But I eat an average of 1800- 2000 calories a day. Considering I train once a day, I compensate for the 400 calories surplus and maintain my body weight. Now on a fat loss program, I would ideally eat 1600 calories and continue to train the same but create a 200 calories surplus. This is probably your case too. You might not be counting your calories but you are trying to eat 100- 300 calories less per day in order to lose weight. But you almost do not or ignore to count the calories coming in form nuts. A cup or 100 grams of cashews have close to 500 plus calories! A handful few times a day adds up to a few hundred calories! It is like taking 2 steps back for every step forward.
Solution: Nuts are an excellent source of Omega’s. Do not cut them out, rather limit them. Maybe just 4-5 with breakfast and replacing your snacks for low calorie fruits, veggies and drinks. Just like nuts, oil’s add up some very fast empty calories. 1 tbsp of ‘healthy’ olive oil can have upto 14 grams of fat and 119 calories! So replace your salad dressing with something low cal such as lemon/ salt/ pepper and vinegar. Oh if you are desi like me, hari chutney for salad dressing is a great option!
3) You are a ‘weekday warrior’: If you create a caloric deficit of 500 calories per day, that adds upto 3500 for the week. Which adds up to just around 0.5kg! Being consistent all month will get you down by 2 kgs only assuming you maintain the 500 calories deficit all seven days of the week including Sundays. Now let me give you some scary numbers.
So you have been doing great all week and its your cheat- meal Sunday. You are really serious about your health goals and really want to make it only a cheat- meal vs a cheat- day so you choose to indulge on Sunday night. This was you get back home to bed and start fresh on Monday morning vs cheating all day on Sunday. Ok so you have been looking forward to this cheat meal and order a burger with fries and a beer. You say no to ice creams or desserts because hey ‘diet!’, ‘goals’!, ‘six- pack’!- Duh!! I am so so sorry to say this but the average calories for you one cheat meal came upto 850 or even more! So not only were you in a 500 calorie deficit for Sunday, but instead you consumed a surplus of 850 calories. So that almost three hard working days of your week gone! But But But…. read the solution.
Solution: Being on a caloric deficit and losing weight was YOUR decision so first stop playing the self pity game. When on a transformation program, choose to cheat- clean. What is clean- cheat now! Well I would have had the same burger but with some homemade baked fries (cutting the calories to less than half) with a low- cal soda or water instead of beer. You are still cheating, but not going all fried and oily. And absolutely no alcohol.
Also who says one day of the week has to be a mandatory rest day? Let your body decide when its time to rest. Sure take a break from weight training but you can still try a yoga class or go for a long walk or play a sport. Do something at least for an hour to keep your body burning calories. This was your exercise calories balance your cheat meal and you are not in a caloric surplus.
4) You have not discovered HIIT: HIIT- Or high intensity interval training is a great way to burn calories AFTER to leave the floor. HIIT is a high intense working lasting for 20- 25 minutes where you tap your anaerobic system for short periods throughout the 20- 25 minutes of training. You might think that what is a 20 minute workout going to do to me when I but 500 plus calories in an hour. Well my dear you will burn lesser calories in the 20 minutes you train, but since the system is so taxing, your VO2 max (the amount of oxygen consumed by the body) increases, thus forcing your body to continue burning calories hours after training. Overall, you will burn much more than you do in a standard moderate intensity hour long session.
Solution: Research on HIIT training or follow me on my Instagram where I often put up my workout video’s and include this as part of your program for a few times a week. Do not over do these since they do take a toll on your body and if your goal is to build lean muscle mass, too much of this could be counter productive.
5) You have not tweeked your program in a long time: When was the last time you sat to work on your macros/ caloric intake and goals. Let’s do some math to understand. You started with eating 1800 calories when your body weight was 60 kilo’s. Now you have dropped 5 kilo’s in a few months and feel great but your weight wont budge any further. Now assuming your BMR when you were at 60 was at 1700 calories. But now that you lost some weight, your BRM also changes and if you have gained some muscle mass, this number could go up, but if your focus has solely been fat- loss, this number might even go down. Your current BMR at 55 kilo’s might be 1400. So you will have to either eat that much lesser or train that much more to compensate for the drop in BMR. This is classically seen with people who do too much cardio to lose weight and do not focus on strength training. Building or maintaining lean muscle mass is extremely important at all stages of life since this will keep your BMR up. Cardio will not help you gain muscle mass but strength training will. So focus of strength training and include it as part of your training plan at least 3-4 times per week. Eventually you want to reach a point in your life where you train for lesser hours per week while eating more calories and still maintain your body weight.
Other thing that might happen is your body getting too comfortable with the workouts. Imagine being in kindergarden when your ABC’s were a task! It was hard work remembering the order of 26 different letters and what sounded like what. But now you use all of them jumbled up and rarely make a mistake. Likewise, when you were new to the gym, the exercises were hard and took a toll on your muscle/ mind coordination. But now, the same exercises are easier for you and maybe you have not sat back to upgrade your fitness plan. Designing a fitness plan is like art work! A few strokes added here and there could make all the difference. Take heavier weights or add more sets. Maybe play around with the concept of drop sets, superset and what not. The options are endless.
Solution: Sit back and re consider your daily calories/ macros. Make necessary changes if you have to. Maybe take help from a professional to design your nutrition and fitness plan. Your body is stronger now and has recruited new muscle fiber’s to do the work that was tough for you a few weeks back. So place an extra challenge on it now by trying something new.
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