One of the first steps to take when you want to be fit is to start training. Training offers a lot of benefits, and especially when you train with weights, this improves your insulin sensitivity, and each and every one of you knows how important it is that insulin levels stay within range and that insulin is responsible for calorie partitioning – whether calories end up as energy stored or as energy burned. What is more, training contributes to the secretion of hormones that speed up your metabolism, make you feel better and, last, but not least, movement is food for the cells – in other words, health for the joints.
Nevertheless, if you want to accomplish your goal to be in excellent shape, training is not enough. I often hear women say: “I have been training, but I haven’t lost any weight.” Or ”I train, but I have even gained weight.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1.Are you using the right ways to measure?
I have written about this before, so now I am only going to mention it briefly to make sure you don’t fall into this category. When you train, and especially when you train with weights, you may notice that the number on the scale doesn’t budge or even goes up a little. The reason for this is that muscle weighs more than fat and even if you are burning fat, you may notice this tendency with your weight, if you are building muscle. That is why it is advisable to have other ways to measure your progress as well – first and foremost circumferences (weight, hips, legs, arms, chest). Still, if your weight is increasing quite drastically too, don’t fool yourselves that this is muscle. If it were that easy to gain muscle weight, bodybuilders wouldn‘t spend countless hours doing it. If this is the case, we’ll move on to the next item in the list.
2.What and how much you eat
I always say that you eat to burn fat and you train to sculpt your body. If you never worked out, physical activity will be sure to help you burn fat, but after a while trying to burn off the calories you eat by doing more physical activity is a recipe for a plateau. The body is quite adaptive and very soon after you start moving, the body starts changing its energy expenditure, i.e. you start burning fewer calories for the same amount of physical activity. And then workouts stop being the excuse for you to have another piece of cake or another handful of nuts.
So you need to pay attention to what and how much you eat. It is normal to have more appetite as you increase your physical activity – even if you don’t notice this on the same day, you definitely will on the next day – the day after the workout. So instead of thinking that workouts are the reason you are gaining weight, analyze what you eat. Be honest with yourselves. I work with a lot of people and I see how often we fool ourselves that we are doing everything right, but when we start writing things down, we see where we go wrong. Write down everything you eat for a week – every little handful and every morsel of food; and most of all the food you eat without giving it a second thought – on the go, in front of the fridge, on your way through the office, etc. At the end of the week analyze if everything is as perfect, as you think it is.
Ask yourselves the following questions:
- Am I putting too much milk and other things into my coffee?
- Am I overconsuming dairy products – is cheese a part of more than one of my meals for the day?
- Am I overdoing the amount of food I consume on the pretext that I eat healthy?
- Does my everyday menu include too many healthy desserts?
- Do I eat out a lot and do I always finish larger portions?
- Do I restrict my food intake during the first half of the day, only to make up for it later in the afternoon and evening?
- Do I stop eating when I feel full or do I always eat up?
- Do I skip afternoon snacks and make up for them by the amount of food I eat at dinner?
- Do I eat more carbohydrates (than I need) on a training day, thinking that when I move, I am allowed to eat more?
- Am I overconsuming raw nuts and dried fruit?
These are just ten questions, but I am sure that, as you read them, you have already found an answer to the question why you are not making the desired progress in the fat-burning department. Now the next step is for you to correct your mistakes, and don’t do everything at once – start with 2 or 3 things and when they have become a habit, try correcting something else.
And don’t lay the blame for your lack of progress on weight-lifting. Food is crucial and is usually to blame for weight loss plateaus.