You wouldn't sleep through an entire semester of classes and expect to pass your finals with flying colors, would you? Well, dragging yourself to the gym without putting much thought into your routine or lifestyle and expecting to lose weight is no different. You're not going to trim down unless you take the time to study. When we're talking about your weight loss though, "studying" doesn't involve opening a book or hitting the library; it's all about looking at your routine and identifying any possible blunders that could be stalling your progress.
Whether you're a fitness newbie or a seasoned gym rat, chances are that one (or more) of the factors below is the reason you're not seeing the results you want. Read on to find out what experts say are the exercise mistakes preventing weight loss and what you can do to get back on track toward ditching that excess flab once and for all. Read on, and for more on healthy eating, don't miss Simple Ways to Start Losing Weight Immediately, According to Science.
You know that consuming protein after your workout aids muscle repair and growth, so the more of it you eat, the better—right? Not so much. Researchers say that for those who weigh about 150 pounds, consuming 20 grams of protein within a half-hour of leaving the gym is optimal. Lisa De Fazio, MS, RD says women who weigh a bit less may only need about 12 grams. Take in any more than the recommended amount and the protein will likely be stored as fat, while the excess amino acids will simply be excreted, she notes. A 7-ounce Fage Total 2% Plain Yogurt fits the bill and is easy to throw in a gym bag and eat on the go. Mix it with some berries to add some flavor-enhancing, energy-replenishing carbs to your post-workout snack. Not a big fan of the creamy treat? Check out these 16 Post-Workout Snacks Fitness Experts Swear By.
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Sure, hitting the gym once or twice a week can boost heart health and even your mood, but if weight or fat loss is your goal, you'll need to commit to a consistent workout schedule.
"When I'm looking to trim down a bit, my rule is three or 30. This means three miles a day of walking, running or cycling, or 30 minutes of circuit or strength training. It doesn't matter what it is, just get moving every day," says Kit Rich, celebrity trainer and co-owner of SHIFT by Dana Perri.
To help you stick to your workouts, sit down at the beginning of each week and pencil in your sweat sessions, then stick to them as you would any important appointment. Set realistic expectations, then reward yourself with something healthy—like a manicure or a new pair of running shoes—if you overshoot your goal.
While some of us may opt to work out in a fasted state with the assumption that exercising on an empty stomach will cause our body to burn fat to use as fuel, this isn't a necessity to lose weight. In fact, a Nutrients review actually found that consuming a carbohydrate-rich meal within 60 minutes of an endurance exercise actually benefits performance. Not only can a carb-rich snack make your workout better, but it can actually increase fat burning during exercise!
While it's true that a bad workout is better than no workout at all, that only holds true when some—not all—of your workouts lack intensity. Deep down you know that coasting along in the back of Zumba class every week or barely breaking a sweat in the weight room isn't going to help you achieve that lean look you're working towards. If you want to see a change in your body, you must challenge your muscles. "Lifting heavy weights is the best way to increase your metabolism, sustain long-term muscle growth and stay lean. If you're doing more than ten reps with ease, your weight probably isn't heavy enough, so vary your reps and consistently increase the amount you're lifting," says Dustin Hassard, NCSF, Head Coach at Modern Athletics. The same holds true when you're doing cardio—and it's as simple as turning up the speed or the resistance. Don't believe it? Consider this: A 150-pound person who bumps the treadmill speed from 5 MPH to 6 MPH will boost their calorie burn by 25 percent, which, over time, can add up to major weight loss.
Believe it or not, recovery and rest are just as important as your workout. When you don't give yourself enough time to relax between sweat sessions, the body starts pumping out cortisol, a stress hormone that boosts fat storage and appetite—a killer combination for anyone looking to lose weight and burn fat. This doesn't mean you have to take two days off for every day you hit the gym, but you should vary your workouts so you aren't hitting the same muscles on consecutive days. That means back-to-back full-body strength-training sessions are out; doing upper body one day and lower body the next is fair game, though, as is alternating lighter workouts—like yoga or a spin class—with full-body resistance training. This tactic helps your muscles recover without cutting into your workout schedule. It's a win-win.
Doing the same workout for months on end and expecting to lose weight is a lot like using a cheesy pickup line to land a date—it's just not going to work. Sure, that barre class may have helped you lose the first five pounds, but after you've mastered the moves, your progress is sure to stall. If you want the scale to tip in your favor, you have to vary your workouts and do exercises that you're not particularly good at so your body stays challenged, according to a study by University of Florida researchers. To keep seeing results, mix up your intensity or duration every time you hit the gym, then completely switch your workout once a month. That could mean trying a boxing class if you've become a hardcore yogi or simply drawing up new resistance and cardio routines every four weeks. For some inspiration, try these 35 Fun Activities that Don't Feel Like Exercise.