Do you bust your tail at the gym day in and day out, yet you can’t shed a pound? (Or maybe you’re even gaining!) I know too many people who follow restrictive diets, depriving their body of what it needs, all while putting it through hell at the gym. I can relate. I used to do this, too. The thing is, it’s not worth it...and weight loss doesn’t work that way!
Why exercise alone won’t cut it:
For years we’ve been told, “burn more calories than you take in and you’ll lose weight!”, so it’s no wonder we spend hours upon hours running or “ellipticaling" to burn as many calories as we can. Yet, to this day, there hasn’t been a single study showing that exercise alone causes significant weight loss (and certainly not sustainable weight loss). There’s so much more to it than that.
One of the main reasons burning tons of calories through exercise can still result in not losing a single pound is because of an important thing you don’t hear about very often from weight loss experts or the media. It’s called inflammation. Too much exercise can cause inflammation in your body. If you exercise too hard on a daily basis, there is an abundance of inflammation happening that your body isn’t getting a break from. This would explain not only your inability to lose weight—as your body is constantly fighting fires inside of you—but it’s also why you can actually gain weight from exercising too much—because of all the compounding inflammation.
I learned this the hard way when I started running marathons. When I continued to gain weight while adding miles to my daily runs, I discovered it was due to the inflammation my long durations of cardiovascular activity was causing in my body. The same is true for all of the people you see at the gym on the elliptical machine for upwards of an hour —they’re giving themselves gold stars when they are actually doing more harm than good.
Here’s what happens: Essentially, inflammation drains your metabolism because your body is focused on healing. “Chronic cardio,” (as it is referred to), can also increase your body’s production of cortisol—your stress hormone—setting you up for weight gain by raising blood sugar levels and triggering the release of insulin, your fat-storing hormone.
Five things you can start doing TODAY to start losing weight:
- Start skipping the gym. Giving up the daily gym grind doesn’t necessarily mean you need to completely stop exercising. All it means is cutting back in order to allow your body to heal, and then gradually adding in different types of workouts. The right types of exercise can be incredibly beneficial for boosting metabolism, so the takeaway here is that not all types of exercise are created equal. It’s the chronic, repetitive, daily endurance activity that is counterproductive and inflammatory. A healthy first step is taking a break from intense workouts for a few weeks, and embrace yoga, pilates, and lower intensity exercises. After a couple weeks of this, I recommend adding in short bursts of activity at high intensity intervals, a few times a week, to support your metabolism. See point # 2! And check out this blog post to learn what I do for my workouts, why I do them, and how they have evolved. (There are some MAJOR mindset knowledge bombs here!)
- Start incorporating HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). Intensity is more important than frequency. This may be the simplest metabolism-boosting switch that you can make: changing from the long, slow, boring, hamster-wheel workouts to shorter bursts of high intensity intervals with rest days in-between to properly recover! This type of exercise gives your metabolism a jump-start without causing stress (inflammation) in the body. High intensity interval workouts are alternating short periods of intense exercise with recovery periods. It’s as simple as doing some exercise and then resting. These high intensity interval training workouts are the kind that really turbocharge your metabolism, and as a bonus: they don’t require great lengths of time...also awesome! For your intervals, you can mix it up by including sets of both cardiovascular activity and resistance (strength) training to keep your heart pumping and your muscles strong, too. Jumping jacks, mountain climbers and running up and down the stairs count for cardio, and squats, pushups and lunges are more strength training exercises. Burpees and squat jumps are both! What I personally recommend (and do) is that you set your stopwatch for 30 seconds. Do sets of the exercises I just outlined, and any other moves you love for 30 seconds and then take a 30-second break in between sets. The break is to allow your body to rest so that you can push yourself hard again, but not so long that it fully recovers between sets. You can do 20 seconds on and 40 seconds off, or 15 seconds on and a 45-second break, especially when you first start this regimen, or when you’re beginning to feel tired, like toward the end of your workout. You can start with just a few minutes of this and work your way up to 10 or 15 minutes at a time, based on how your body feels. I suggest starting with three to five minutes of this interval workout a few days a week, and you can work your way up to ten or fifteen minutes a few times a week. This type of workout can be done at home without going to a gym, and when the weather is nice, you can do the same type of thing outside—30-second intervals, alternating between running and walking—or skipping if you’re adventurous!
- Make it a point to REST! If you’ve been over exercising, then in order for you to lose weight, it’s going to be critical for you to take a break from overdoing it and allow your body a chance to rest and heal. If you are putting in long hours of endurance activity every day and don’t give yourself a break, how do you expect your body to recover? Every time your body is inflamed, it focuses on healing that inflammation as its top priority. Not weight loss. Not energy. Not happiness. Just healing. All exercise can produce an inflammatory response and a slowed metabolism if you’re doing too much, so make your workouts harder (not longer), and not more frequent. Make sure you are well rested so that you can do harder workouts, albeit shorter ones. Exercising in this way supports your metabolism the most without promoting inflammation. Just like it’s downright mean to restrict your body of the nutrients it needs (like fat or calories), subjecting your body to a constant state of inflammation is dishonoring it, too. Give your body periods of rest and recovery, and listen to it rather than doing things to it that it doesn’t like.
- Supplement! Once I changed my exercise regimen, along with the addition of quality vitamins that I hadn’t been taking up to that point, I started losing weight. Twenty pounds came off effortlessly. Long story short: Supplements were a key factor that changed everything for me, and I still make it a priority to take these every single day. (Grab my FREE guide on supplement recommendations for exercise HERE.) The longer story is that poor quality, unregulated supplements—the ones you find on store shelves—could actually be causing inflammation and a slower recovery time, taking you further from your goals instead of helping you! This is something I learned the hard way, and a lot of our clients have unfortunately suffered in the past from these, too. There is a mystery combination of unknown ingredients and additives in products on store shelves that we, as consumers, aren’t even privy to. All of that junk is harmful for your body! It deadens metabolism, increases inflammation, packs on the pounds and generally causes more harm than good. That said, high quality supplements are extremely effective when it comes to healing and weight loss. I recommend either taking high-quality pharmaceutical grade supplements that are regulated, like the VeroVive™ line or none at all. I also created a free guide for you with my specific nutrient and supplement recommendations for workouts. Click here to get the free guide (you can save, download, and print it!)
- Find your Balance. A big takeaway about exercise is, like most things, it’s really all about balance. Personally, now I eat more calories and fat than ever before, I’m exercising far less, and I’m in the best shape of my life. I don’t tell you that to brag, but because I used to believe getting in shape was 50%exercise + 50%nutrition, and now I know nutrition matters much more. As you shift away from long workouts, it’s a wise idea to invest that extra time into planning and prepping your meals and snacks to bring you closer to your weight goals. Abs really are made in the kitchen—it’s a saying that has stuck around for good reason. In fact, at an initial client appointment, it isn’t rare for us to ask them to spend less time at the gym and more time making healthy food a priority, instead of trying to “burn off” junky stuff they eat when they’re in a hurry. You can be torching calories left and right doing grueling workouts at the gym, but consuming excessive amounts of processed carbohydrates ultimately inhibits your ability to access and burn stored body fat. You can’t just “burn off” the inflammatory foods you’re eating. It doesn’t work that way. The first step is to eat in PFC balance (more healthy fat and protein along with your carbs!).
Are you jumping for joy?!
This is great news! You’re getting your life back! And losing weight in the process!
To conclude, focus on intensity more than frequency and round it out with adequate rest, quality supplementation and PFC balanced eating and your body will thank you by letting go of those excess pounds. Honor your body and your body will honor you!
For more, I wrote an entire chapter on exercise in my #1 international bestselling book, Why Am I Still Fat? The Hidden Keys to Unlocking That Stubborn Weight Loss.
In the book you’ll also find thirteen more weight loss keys that I bet no one has told you about, and you’ll get detailed guides that go along with each one, including my Guide to Healthy Exercise! Grab it here!