You’ve made a conscious effort to hit the gym a few times a week. You’re curtailing your usual ice cream and pizza fixes in favor of whole grains and salads.
But here’s the million-dollar question you ask yourself every time you look in the mirror: why aren’t you seeing the results you want?
Is it really impossible to hit your target weight and have the body you’ve always wanted?
Before you attempt to answer that, here’s a sobering fact in a nutshell: you’re not alone. Many people want to lose weight, burn fat, and get lean – and discover along the way that such goals are more challenging to achieve even when they think they should already be getting an A+ for their efforts.
The same may hold true for you, so don’t despair just yet. Acknowledge where you are so you can prepare to move forward, even with one small step at a time.
Start by being open to making little tweaks in your diet, exercise, and general lifestyle. Here are some simple and effective things you can do to inject a fresh dose of revival to your health and fitness goals.
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- 1. Make sure you eat enough
- 2. Recognize that cardio exercise alone will NOT make you fit
- 3. Remember this, though – you shouldn’t just lift any weights
- 4. Longer exercises don’t mean better results
- 5. Check if you’re doing your exercises in the correct order
- 6. Check if you’ve gotten stuck on your exercise routine
- 7. Make sure to grab a bite before you exercise
- 8. Take note of your protein intake – you should be getting enough
- 9. How your muscles are built depends on how good your diet is
- 10. You’re either working out too much, not getting enough sleep, or worse, both
- Set Realistic Goals and Manage Your Expectations
1. Make sure you eat enough
This is perhaps the most common dilemma for all weight watchers. You know you need to shed a few – or more – pounds, but your body needs food. It’s as simple as that.
So what do you do about it? How will you reach a compromise that will make your waistline happy without depriving yourself of much-needed nutrition?
Skipping meals is a common practice, but it’s far from the smartest way to tackle the situation. If you want to get lean, you need to have more fuel. But in order to lose weight, you need to have the right kind of fuel.
Not eating enough, especially when you exercise, means that your body will be forced to get energy from your muscles – which, in turn, puts a dent on your metabolism. The key is to find a healthy diet such as the DASH diet and follow it along side your workout routine.
Fix it: Instead of regularly skipping meals and subjecting yourself to a diet like you were a bird, be more aware of the type of calories you’re taking in. On the days you’re not working out, go on a low-carb diet because, of course, your body converts unused carbs to unwanted fat.
2. Recognize that cardio exercise alone will NOT make you fit
Here’s another common belief that you need to unlearn fast: that simply doing cardio workouts – like running or hitting the treadmill – will help you get lean all by itself.
Of course it’s very helpful in burning calories, but it sadly won’t increase your metabolism.
So what will? Having more muscle mass, that’s what. The more muscles you have, the more your body will burn calories naturally. Now that’s a wonderful thought.
Fix it: Try to incorporate body weight and weightlifting workout in your regular exercise routine. And it doesn’t have to be elaborate or fancy, either.
You can start easy with lifting dumbbells, and then gradually work your way up from there.
It will also be of enormous benefit to make a positive shift in overall lifestyle (better sleep schedule, cut sugars, cut processed foods, better posture etc…).
3. Remember this, though – you shouldn’t just lift any weights
Like in any area of your life, you need to constantly challenge yourself. It’s no different in exercise. While it’s obvious that you can’t go at it full blast right from the start – you’ll burn out and will likely be injured if you do that – it’s important that you know you’re considerably exerting effort in lifting the weights.
A good way to measure it is this: if you can do at least two more perfect reps, then you need heavier weights.
Fix it: Opt for total body movement exercises like pull ups, squats, and deadlifts. They use multiple muscle groups and will help you see results faster.
4. Longer exercises don’t mean better results
Improving your fitness level depends on the intensity of the workout you do, not on putting in more minutes for it.
For example, doing an occasional long jog is fun, but make sure you also have a higher intensity workout that will use more of your muscles.
Fix it: You can check out high-intensity interval training or high-intensity circuit training. Interval cardio exercises are also good to incorporate. Adding hills or inclines to your exercise will also dramatically boost your results.
5. Check if you’re doing your exercises in the correct order
If you usually have an intense cardio workout first, that may mean that you don’t have much energy left for lifting – so you tend not to do enough of it. You may have to rethink your strategy if that’s the case.
Fix it: After your warm up routine, lift your weights first. And then you can do your cardio.
6. Check if you’ve gotten stuck on your exercise routine
You’d get bored with your job if you do the same thing every day with no changes whatsoever – so what makes you think it will be different on your fitness regimen?
You have to consciously inject changes on your workout; otherwise you’ll get so bored that you’ll quit – which is the last thing you want to do, of course.
Fix it: Sign up for a new class or maybe try a new location for your jogging. In other words, get out of your comfort zone.
If you’re a planning and organization freak, you can try planning different exercises for specific days. It’s a good way to keep you excited rather than frustrated with your routine.
7. Make sure to grab a bite before you exercise
It’s common sense, but more often than not it’s either overlooked or blatantly ignored. Your body needs carbs for it to work; hence, you have to eat before running out the door for your morning jog or changing into your workout clothes for your Muay Thai session.
It’s really very simple: having enough energy will allow your body to perform better and burn more calories.
Fix it: Be open to trying different ideas until you find something that works for you.
For example, you can have a proper sit-down meal at least three hours before you exercise, and maybe even grab a protein shake half an hour prior to your workout.
8. Take note of your protein intake – you should be getting enough
Here’s the general rule of thumb: if you have an active lifestyle – meaning you work out three to five times every week – you ought to have one gram of protein per pound of your body weight.
Eating a high protein breakfast is an excellent idea for someone looking to lose weight. Women should aim for 20-25 grams of protein for breakfast and men around 30-35 grams.
Exercising efficiently means that your body has enough protein to build your muscles. And, of course, when you have enough muscles, then your body has sufficient means to increase your metabolism too.
Fix it: This suggestion has already been mentioned in the prior item on the list, but it’s worth noting again. You can have a protein-concentrated snack about 30 minutes before exercising.
A good way to check if you need more protein is if you constantly feel fatigued or sore despite having a well-balanced diet. A quick remedy for this is grabbing a high protein snack after working out such as a protein shake or Greek yogurt.
9. How your muscles are built depends on how good your diet is
If you don’t have muscles, then getting lean is definitely out of the picture. But if you do have muscles but you’re still not seeing the toned body that you want, you may have to check and review your diet.
For a lot of people, it’s not really the fat intake that’s the culprit – it’s the fact that they take in a lot of carbs and don’t burn enough of them off. If you find yourself guilty of this, it’s time to make a change.
Fix it: To help your body have more muscle definition, be more conscious of having a low-carb diet. And no, it’s not hard to do it either.
There are a lot of low-carb meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Do your homework and see which ones you’d like to try.
10. You’re either working out too much, not getting enough sleep, or worse, both
Sleep has a big impact on your the state of your health and weight. You need enough sleep and rest to allow your body to regular hormones, hunger, and fullness cues. Not to mention that a decent amount of shuteye great helps in reducing stress.
Fix it: Pay close attention to your body. It will tell you what you need to do – what’s really important. If you need to skip on your exercise for you to catch up on a much deserved rest, it’s definitely worth it.
Bonus tip – you need to monitor your calorie intake. You obviously can’t eat more calories than you tend to burn; otherwise, it just defeats the purpose of aiming to burn fat in the first place.
The same is true the other way around: you can’t starve yourself and expect to be fit – you’re going to get malnourished if you do that. Like with most things worth achieving, aim for balance.
Get a quick bite right after a workout instead of postponing it hours later. When you do that, you’ll have much better chances of having a balanced diet instead of consuming way too many calories because you’re starving and overeating.
Again high protein snacks and meals will keep your body feeling full and prevent constant snaking and overeating during your meals.
Set Realistic Goals and Manage Your Expectations
With all that said, you have to learn to manage your expectations and be realistic. Success doesn’t happen overnight, does it? All of the weight did not appear overnight and you should not expect it to disappear overnight.
Weight loss takes dedication, patience, and effort. It is a marathon, not a sprint!
You can’t get a promotion at a snap of your fingers; you have to work considerable years at your post, prove that you’re excellent at what you do, and that you can handle more responsibilities. That’s when you snag a raise.
Same is true with building meaningful relationships. You invest time, effort, and energy in your partner. You make him coffee ever morning, you surprise him on special occasions, you watch football games with him even though you don’t have the slightest inclination about the sport. Before you know it, you’ve been together for five years – and blissfully happy at that.
If you understand the above statements, you also ought to realize that the same will hold true for your fitness goals. Results will definitely take time, maybe even longer than you initially thought – definitely longer than just a mere few weeks or even months.
Understand that and you won’t end up so frustrated and disappointed every time you have to confront yourself in the bathroom mirror or look at the numbers in the weighing scale.
Instead, look at the bright side. You’ve already taken conscious steps to be healthier and more fit. That in itself is already worth celebrating. Not many people get past writing down these goals.
But if you’ve already started jogging on your treadmill or walking around your neighborhood at least a few times a week or going on night swimming on weekends, it means you’ve already given yourself a head start. Allow for setbacks and don’t be too strict on yourself.
There will really be times that you may not feel like working out. Maybe you’re too tired, the weather is plain dreary, you’re swamped with work, you have to take the kids to play dates, you’re asked to attend a parent-teacher conference, or you’re loaded with meetings.
Perhaps you still need to do the laundry, cook dinner, attempt to do some cleaning, wash the dog, or host a dinner party. Or maybe there are times that you’re simply too lazy to bother getting off of the couch or dragging yourself out of bed. That’s fine. But more than that, it’s normal.
Accept it as part of reality so you can move forward. Treat your fitness goal as you would a very interesting journey. It will have ups and downs, there may be times when you want to give up and forget you ever came up with the idea of losing weight and getting lean.
But there will also be instances when you’ll meet new people, when you wake up feeling energized, when you want to make healthier choices in what you eat and how you spend you days. Celebrate that.
Celebrate those little successes, those tentative milestones. It will help you always remember why you’re doing what you’re doing in the first place.
And when you’ve finally gotten considerably closer to the body you’ve always wanted, you know it’s just part of the package. You’re after good health, after all, not just good-looking body.
Another great idea is to stay off the scale. Getting addicted to weighing yourself every single day is a good way to destroy your motivation and set yourself up for failure. Set one day every week or two to weigh yourself, and use that as your weigh in day.
Remember, it takes time, but once some results start coming in, your motivation, confidence, and desire to workout will skyrocket!