Exercising But Not Losing Weight — Here Are 7 Reasons Why and What You Can Do About It

Exercising but not losing weight? You are exercising regularly, eating healthy, and you are trying your best – but still, you are finding it difficult to shed those extra pounds.

It can be frustrating and disappointing at times when you are unable to get the results you were expecting, despite all the hard work. But you are not alone.

Nearly a third of the world’s population is overweight or obese, and they too are finding it very difficult to lose weight. If current trends continue, almost half the world’s population will be overweight by 2050.

Failure to lose weight can be due to a multitude of reasons, such as unhealthy habits, inadequate sleep, stress, medical conditions, and so on.

Given below is the list of the most common reasons why you are not losing weight.

1) Post-Workout Food Rewards Can Ruin Your Weight Loss Goals

Post-Workout Food Rewards Can Ruin Your Weight Loss Goals

A lot of people find it difficult to lose weight because they have the tendency to reward themselves with calorie-rich foods thinking they deserve it, especially after a strenuous workout.

Some people even rationalize their dessert intake thinking that exercise will compensate for it.

Exercise can help you burn calories, but the number of calories you can burn from exercise is probably a lot less than you think.

For example, an average person doing half an hour of vigorous aerobic activity — such as running (6 mph) burns approximately 400 calories.

An iced Caffè Latte (130 calories) and a dessert (200-300 calories) can quickly eliminate all the calories burned from the run and reverse the possible weight loss.

A slice of pizza, roughly about 150 grams, on average, contains around 350 calories. A regular chicken burger contains about 400 calories. One medium size (100 grams) chocolate doughnut contains 452 calories.

By eating just a slice of pizza or a doughnut, you can offset 30 mins of your vigorous aerobic workout.

Avoid eating high-calorie foods like processed foods, fast foods, baked goods, fatty foods, sugary drinks, and alcohol.

Instead of food, you can reward yourself with a calorie-free treat like watching a movie or getting a new pair of running shoes.

Exercise alone is not effective for weight loss. So, exercise should only be a part of your weight loss program, and you should focus more on healthy eating habits.

A post-workout meal containing healthy carbs and protein is needed to restore energy and to repair and build new muscle tissue.

For carbs, choose healthy foods like whole fruits, fresh vegetable salad, brown rice, etc.

For proteins, go with eggs, chicken breast, cottage cheese, and legumes (peas, chickpeas, beans, soybeans, and peanuts).

What about Protein Shakes? Post-workout protein shakes can make it harder for you to lose weight. Here is why?

One scoop of a regular serving of protein powder has around 100-200 calories and if you are mixing with milk or yogurt, it can contribute about 100 extra calories.

Go for protein shakes under 200 calories per serving if your goal is to lose weight.

2) You Are Not Keeping Track Of Your Calories (Portion control)

The key to weight management is energy balance – the number of calories you are consuming versus the number of calories you are burning.

If you are consuming roughly the same amount of calories you are burning, you will not lose weight.

In order to lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit, which means you have to eat fewer calories than you burn. That way, you are creating a calorie deficit, also called an energy deficit.

Even if you are eating a healthy diet, if you are not keeping track of your calories, you may be eating more than you think.

We often tend to underestimate how much we are eating. Studies have shown that people eat more when they’re given a large portion size. Often this happens in restaurants, especially fast-food restaurants, where food is usually cheap and served in large quantities.

Maintain a food diary and write down all the foods and drinks you take every day; you’ll get a clear perception of how much you are eating. Often, you will be surprised at how much you are eating.

That being said, if you feel that you are exercising but not losing weight, you should keep track of the calories you are consuming and the calories you are burning.

Keeping track of your calories is much easier nowadays; there are various apps available for smartphones, and some of them are free to use. In addition, some of these apps can also track your exercise to help you visualize the calorie deficit.

You can try this Food Calorie Calculator from Calorie Control Council Powered by the USDA National Nutrient Database.

But, you don’t have to count calories and keep track of it for the rest of your life to maintain or lose weight. This is where portion control comes in.

Create a list of everyday foods that you usually eat and find out the calories present in each of them, using the food calorie calculator. Typically they will list calories by the amount based on serving size or based on weight.

With this information at hand, you can calculate your portion size to suit your caloric requirement. Measure foods regularly, use tools like measuring cups, spoons, and kitchen scale to get an idea of what the portions size looks like.

An easier way to remember your portion size is to compare the measured serving to your hands or an object. For example, an average-sized fist or a baseball is equivalent to 1 cup or 8 oz. The size of your thumb measures about one tablespoon. A tennis ball measures about half a cup

Follow this for few months, and you’ll get the hang of it eventually.

Apart from quantity, the quality of food also matters. For example, carbohydrates from natural or whole foods are healthier than those coming from processed foods. Furthermore, they are also rich in dietary fiber, which makes you feel full and can help you in achieving your weight loss goal a lot easier.

3) You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep

When it comes to weight loss, sleep is as important as diet or exercise.

Various studies have shown that chronic sleep deprivation was associated with an increase in body mass index (BMI).

It was found that people who slept 5 hours or less had a significant increase in body weight when compared to those who get 7 hours of quality sleep.

Sleep deprivation increases the level of a hunger-stimulating hormone called ghrelin and decreases the level of a hormone called leptin which makes you feel full. As a result, it increases hunger and makes you crave high-calorie foods.

Also, when you do not sleep long enough, you tend to feel drowsy and lethargic during the daytime, thereby making you forgo exercise.

Furthermore, lack of sleep causes your body to produce too much of the hormones cortisol and insulin and can slow down your metabolism. Sleep promotes muscle repair, and muscle growth and lack of sleep can impede muscle growth. Reduced muscle mass, in turn, reduces metabolism.

4) You’re Sitting At A Desk All Day

Sitting At a Desk All Day Can Make It Harder To Lose Weight

If you are sitting for long periods, it can make it harder to maintain a healthy weight. Prolonged sitting can affect calorie utilization in two possible ways:

i) If you are sitting most of the time, you are using far less energy compared to a person who is physically active and moving most of the day doing normal daily activities like standing, walking, etc.,

ii) Sitting for long periods can slow down your metabolism, and you will burn fewer calories. So, when your metabolism slows down, the pounds add up.

To boost your metabolism, take a break from sitting every 30 minutes and move around for a while. Walking back and forth every 30 minutes can make a huge difference. Stand up while talking on the phone. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

5) Health Condition And Medication

medical-conditions-and-medication-can-interfere-with-weight loss
Medical Conditions Can Interfere With Your Weight Loss

You are following a healthy lifestyle (healthy eating, regular exercise), keeping track of calories, physically more active, and yet, you find it hard to lose weight, or you are gaining weight for no apparent reason — this could be a sign of an underlying medical condition.

The most common medical conditions that can interfere with your weight loss are:

Underactive thyroid (Hypothyroidism): is a condition in which your thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroid hormones. This will slow down your metabolism and thus leads to weight gain. Hypothyroidism is a common condition and affects women more often than men.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): is a hormonal disorder common among women of childbearing age. Obesity is a common finding in women with PCOS. The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but it is thought to be hormone-related. Women who have PCOS have insulin resistance and high levels of male hormones (androgens). Insulin resistance is often thought of as a contributing factor to obesity.

Insomnia: Insomnia is not to be confused with sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation refers to loss of sleep due to lack of opportunity (or lack of time), on account of voluntary restriction — for example, staying up all night to study or working a night shift. Insomnia, on the other hand, is the inability to fall asleep or difficulty sleeping in spite of having the adequate time or opportunity to get a full night of sleep. Whether insomnia or sleep deprivation, both work the same way when it comes to weight gain.

Stress, Anxiety, and Depression: Those who are suffering from anxiety or depression often have higher levels of cortisol (stress hormone) which can contribute to weight gain. Also, when you are feeling depressed you are more likely to turn to food.

Menopause: Many women start to notice body changes during the menopause transition, and one of the changes is weight gain. Hormonal changes (lower estrogen levels), aging, lifestyle, and genetic factors are thought to play a role.

Medications: Certain medications can cause some people to put on weight. Medicines that may cause weight gain include — birth control pills, certain diabetes, and blood pressure-reducing medications, steroids, antipsychotics, drugs given for depression and epilepsy.

So, if you are exercising but not losing weight, talk to your healthcare provider to find out whether your health condition or medication is interfering with your weight loss. If it is the medication that is causing the weight gain in most cases, you may have another choice of medicine.

Meanwhile, try adjusting your diet and exercise routine to make up for the weight gained from taking your medication.

6) You’re Shopping On An Empty Stomach

Do you have the habit of going shopping on an empty stomach, it not only leads to an empty wallet but also weight gain.

Never shop on an empty stomach. When you are hungry, you can’t think straight and you are bound to make poor decisions.

The temporary food cravings can influence you to buy more high-calorie foods or buy more food items compared to when you are full.

Research conducted by Alison Jing Xu, assistant professor at the University of Minnesota, reports that hunger drives people to purchase more food items and even non-food items.

According to the study, people who are hungry picked out 70 percent more products than those who were less hungry.

Another study reports that the hungrier shoppers were found to have spent 64% more money than their satiated counterparts.

“If you go for a shopping trip with an empty stomach you may spend more money and buy more stuff than you otherwise would. So, if you’re hungry, think twice before you buy,” says Xu.

So, don’t step inside a grocery store or a shopping mall on an empty stomach.

7) You don’t Vary Your Exercise Routine

When it comes to exercise, many of us have the habit of repeating the same exercise routine every day. You will be losing weight initially, after few months, you may no longer be making any progress or losing weight.

That’s because two things commonly happen when you do the same thing over and over again:

i) You get bored doing the same workout, and you probably will lose your motivation to exercise.

ii) When you are repeating the same type of workout, your body will adapt to your exercise routine. Your muscles become very efficient and use less energy to do the same task. As a result, you burn fewer calories than you did when you started working out, and you may hit a weight loss plateau.

If you are exercising but not losing weight, you should consider varying their exercise routines to prevent boredom and to avoid reaching a plateau. Here are some ways to deal with weight loss plateau:

  • Increase the frequency or duration of your workout
  • Increase the intensity of your workout
  • Increase the number of sets or reps
  • Vary the type or order of exercises.
  • Decrease the rest between exercises
  • Vary the amount of resistance.

Varying your workout from time to time is an effective way to make your routine more fun and interesting, so you’re more likely to stick with it.


Losing weight can be a challenging task and requires consistency, hard work, and patience.

At the most basic level, weight loss is about creating a daily calorie deficit. Exercise alone is not effective for weight loss, you have to reduce your calorie intake, in addition to exercise.

Losing weight is a long-term process and hence focus on adopting healthier lifestyle habits like eating a healthy diet, practicing portion control, getting adequate sleep, and regular exercise.

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