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Ask just about anyone and they'll tell you that diet and exercise are the two most important components of losing weight. But unfortunately, both healthy eating and regular exercise can actually cause you to gain weight if you're not careful.
Here are 10 ways your workout can actually cause the scale to creep back up:
1. You're Consuming More Calories Than Your Body Needs
Incorporating a few days of exercise into your weekly routine is likely to increase your appetite—especially if your body is burning more calories than it's used to. Unfortunately, this can cause many of us to trip up and consume more calories than we really need.
If running burns 100 calories per mile on average, a two-mile run will only leave you with a 200-calorie deficit. You could easily make up for that (and more!) at your next meal if you're not careful. It might be worth tracking your food and exercise in a free app (like MyFitnessPal) for a few weeks to see if this is where you might be missing the mark.
2. You Refuel With Unhealthy Snacks
There are dozens of nutrition bars, snacks and beverages geared towards athletes and gym-goers looking to refuel after a workout. Most of our staff has a favorite nutrition bar for on-the-go snacking, but many of these products are loaded with more calories, sugar and saturated fat than your body needs after a long walk or elliptical session.
Drinking a 20-ounce bottle of Gatorade will add 140 calories and 34g added sugars to your daily diet in as long as it takes you to drive home from the gym, while a Clif bar adds around 250 calories and 20g added sugars. You're better off opting for a container of plain Greek yogurt with berries, hummus with carrots and pita bread or another healthy snack that isn't so high in calories and added sugars.
Related: 5 Power Foods to Fuel Your Workout
3. You Don't Hydrate Properly
Besides running to sports drinks to hydrate after a workout, there are other hydration mistakes you could be making that will thwart your weight loss goals. Our bodies easily confuse our need for hydration with hunger, so we can consume more calories than we need simply because we aren't drinking enough H2O.
It's also worth mentioning that water isn't the only way to replenish after a workout. Rehydrating your body after an intense sweat session should also include replenishing electrolytes like sodium and potassium. If you're sweating a lot during your workout, you may want to snack on a banana or sip on coconut water afterwards to get a healthy electrolyte boost—without the added sugars sports drinks offer.
4. You Use Your Workout As an Excuse to Be Sedentary the Rest of the Day
This is a major problem for exercise newbies who think their 30 minutes at the gym allows them to sit the rest of the day. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis—NEAT, for short—is a simple way to burn up to 200 extra calories a day without breaking a sweat. Things like taking the stairs, gardening, walking your dog and cooking are all examples of sneaky activities that can boost your calorie burn without going to the gym.
Additionally, there's nothing like a post-workout walk to alleviate muscle soreness and fatigue to help you feel better (plus, you won't have an excuse to skip tomorrow's workout!) Continuing to move throughout the day allows that lactic acid buildup in your muscles to be released and loosen you back up.
5. You Only Do Cardio
We're not saying you have to join the nearest Crossfit gym to start reaping exercise's weight loss benefits, but a little weight training will do your body—and metabolism—some good. Lifting weights helps you build muscle—which burns calories more efficiently than fat—and can help give you the weight loss boost you need. It can even boost your metabolism by five percent!
Not only are weight and resistance training great for burning calories, they are great for your overall health. Research shows they help build strength and endurance to help you perform better in cardio exercise and can boost your heart, bone and mental health.
6. You're Too Obsessed With the Scale
Sometimes the scale doesn't tell us the whole story, and that can especially be the case when it comes to getting more active. Our weight can fluctuate up to six pounds just throughout the course of a day, and exercise can have a direct effect on that.
Sweating during a workout can cause us to temporarily retain water, which can make us feel bloated and cause the scale to look higher than it did yesterday. Also, you may be losing fat, but you're also building muscle at the same time, which can cause the scale to stay the same or even increase. Focusing on the way you feel, your energy level and the way your clothes fit are better determinants of weight loss than the scale a lot of the time.
7. Your Workout Regimen Cuts Into Your Sleep Schedule
Everyone always talks about the importance of a healthy diet and regular exercise regimen for weight loss, but there is another component we often leave out of the equation—sleep! Getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night is essential for losing and maintaining weight because it affects our cravings, gives us energy to power through a workout and ultimately helps us make better food choices.
While it's awesome to get up early and squeeze in that morning workout, that also means you should be going to bed earlier. Missing out on sleep will prevent your muscles from repairing properly and will make it that much easier to choose fast food for lunch or polish off that pint of Ben & Jerry's.
8. You're Not Challenging Yourself Enough
Jillian Michaels says taking it too easy on your workouts and never switching up the intensity are two of the biggest weight loss mistakes she sees her clients make. Michaels says switching up the type of exercise you're doing, as well as challenging yourself to do more reps or run a little longer, prevents you from being bored and significantly impacts calorie burn.
She recommends switching up your regimen every two weeks and ensuring your heart rate gets up to 80% of your max at some point during your workout. If you're a die-hard power walker, maybe try running for one minute every three to five minutes on your next walk, and try upping the weight, adding in a few new moves or increasing reps in your go-to strength routine.
Related: How to Get A Flat Stomach at Any Age
9. You Have an Undiagnosed Health Issue
While this is a much less likely reason than the others, it could be possible your weight loss efforts are being thwarted due to a health condition. Hormone-related conditions—especially when it comes to your thyroid—can lead to unwanted weight gain, even if you're eating healthy and exercising multiple times a week. It's probably worth talking to your doctor if this is happening to you, or if you think your thyroid medication could be causing a higher number on the scale.
10. You're New to Exercise
If you've just started working out regularly—either for the first time ever or have just been out of your routine for a while—you should be proud of yourself for developing this important habit for a healthier, happier body and life.
Your body may not be used to the extra calorie expenditure, as well as sweating more often, and it may retain fluids for a temporary period of time until it adjusts to your new regimen. It's important to ease your way into a fitness routine, so your body can gradually adjust to all the changes going on. This will help prevent overeating, improper hydration and negative changes to your sleep schedule as well. It's OK to start off your fitness journey with walks around the neighborhood instead of jumping right in to an Orange Theory membership.