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8 Reasons Why You’re Strength Training But Not Losing Weight

8 Reasons Why You’re Strength Training But Not Losing Weight

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Although there are *so* many benefits of strength training that go beyond changing your body composition, lifting weights is a key habit to get into if you want to lose weight. After all, you can burn up to 1.4 percent of your body fat just by lifting, research has shown But there really isn’t a guide on exactly how to do this—or even how long it will take before you see weight loss results from strength training.

Weight loss depends on a number of factors, such as what you eat, how much and how intensely you exercise, and how long your sessions are. In general, if you stick to your current diet, “you should see a change in your weight in about two weeks,” he says Albert MathenyRD, CSCS, co-founder of SoHo Power Lab and the CEO of Promix Nutrition.

TBH, weight loss associated with lifting can be hard to measure considering muscle weighs more than fat and you (hopefully) building muscle while losing weight through your routine. “Your weight may stay the same, but you can still be loss of body fat,” Matheny notes.

To accurately gauge your progress, think about how your jeans fit against the number on the scale, he says. Also, consider investing in a scale that measures your body fat percentage so you can watch that number decrease instead of your total weight.

Meet the experts: Albert MathenyRD, CSCS, is co-founder of SoHo Strength Lab and CEO of Promix Nutrition. Jessica CordingRD, is a nutritionist and author of The Little Book of Game Changes.

“If you’ve been trying to lose weight for a month and don’t feel like you’re making any progress, it’s a great time to reevaluate your routine,” says Jessica CordingRD, author of The Little Book of Game Changes.

Feeling a little stuck trying to lose weight through strength training? Experts say one (or more) of these factors may be at play, and here’s what you can do to get the needle moving again.

1. You haven’t paid any attention to your nutrition.

It’s easy to lump weight loss efforts into buckets—your exercise routine and what you eat—and focus on just one thing at a time, but it really needs to be a 360-degree approach. “If you’re not managing your nutrition, it can certainly cancel out what you’re doing in the gym,” Matheny says.

Let’s say that if you end up consuming more calories than you burn, you still won’t lose weight—and you might even gain weight. So, make sure you pay attention to your total calorie intake while doing strength training to lose weight.

2. You don’t eat enough protein.

That’s huge, given that protein helps build muscle. “The amino acids in protein are what your body uses to prepare and build muscle,” Cording explains. Eating at least the recommended daily amount 50 to 60 grams of protein per day (if not much more!) can help you stay satisfied and put the building blocks in place to bulk up. And this macronutrient will help you feel fuller for longer, minimizing the chances of overeating.

Of course, everyone is different. This handy calculator from United States Department of Agriculture will help you figure out your protein needs based on your age, height, weight and activity level.

3. You snack too much.

Mindless snacking can definitely work against any weight loss efforts, Cording says. There are two reasons for this: One is that you may be consuming more calories than you realize; the other is that snacks can prevent you from eating balanced meals. Plan your meals—and your snacks—in advance to help you achieve the right balance of nutrients.

4. You’re not training at a high enough intensity.

This can be hard to measure, but keeping track of how you feel after a workout will usually tell you if your routine needs tweaking, Matheny says. “With 99 percent of strength training exercises, you should feel cardiovascularly challenged,” Matheny says. “If you don’t feel tired afterwards, you’re probably not training hard enough.”

“If you’ve been trying to lose for a month and don’t feel like you’re making any progress, this is a great time to reevaluate your routine.”

If that’s the case for you, try adding five to 10 more reps to each exercise or start lifting heavier weights until your workouts become more challenging, Matheny says. And if you work out at a gym, ask a trainer for guidance.

5. Your carb intake is off.

Carbs have gotten a bad rap, but they’re also important when you’re strength training. “Some people will struggle and say, ‘I barely eat carbs,’ but your body uses carbs during exercise,” Cording says. Carbohydrates “can be beneficial for energy and endurance and play a role in recovery as well.” If you don’t have enough carbohydrates in your diet, you won’t be able to exercise as hard as you need to lose weight.

The exact amount of carbs you need varies—if you’re also doing cardio, you’ll need more than someone who only lifts weights, Cording notes. As a general rule, Dietary Guidelines for Americans we recommend that carbohydrates make up 45 to 65 percent of total daily calories. If you’re confused about whether you’re getting enough, working with a registered dietitian can be really helpful.

6. You don’t get balanced meals.

“Strength training has a way of making you feel very hungry,” Cording says. And if you don’t think ahead about how to ensure a balanced diet, you could end up eating tons of empty calories that aren’t rich in nutrients.

“Ideally, you want every meal to contain protein, healthy fats and fiber,” says Cording. For breakfast, that might mean avocado toast on a slice of whole-wheat bread topped with tomatoes and scrambled eggs, she says.

7. You drink too much.

Alcohol can be a sneaky source of empty calories that work against your weight loss efforts, Matheny says. And if you tend to have more than one drink at a time, those calories can really add up. What’s more, alcohol can increase cortisol levels and even impair your reaction time or ability to train as intensely, so you may not be getting as much strength training as you think if you drink regularly.

The best way to cut calories from alcohol is to stop drinking, says Matheny (you know the one!). But if that’s not something you’re okay with, try changing your drinking habits. Consider sticking to just one drink once or twice a week, for example, or switching to lower-calorie drinks like vodka and soda while avoiding sugary cocktails like margaritas and piña coladas.

8. You don’t allow yourself enough recovery time.

It seems strange that you need to rest to lose weight, but there is actually something to it. “You don’t get stronger by working out,” Matheny says. “You get stronger when your body recovers.” If you don’t give your body enough time or proper nutrition, you simply won’t see improvements.

Another thing to keep in mind, according to Matheny: By trying to work really hard all the time without rest, you’ll have a hard time putting in enough effort. Still, he says, “24 hours of rest is usually good for most people. Just try not to train the same muscle group on consecutive days. It’s a good idea to focus on legs one day and then make it an arm day the next day.

If you have tried these settings and are still without getting anywhere, it’s a good idea to talk to a professional, such as a trainer at your local gym. They should be able to help you understand what’s going on and get you on the right path to success.


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