Some people go to the gym to lose weight; some go to build their muscles—people work out for various reasons. But what happens when your workouts aren’t delivering your desired results?
While any workout is good, not every exercise or habit can reach your fitness end goal. What might work for other people is not guaranteed to work for you either. So when determining how effective your workouts are, you might need to look beyond your time in the gym and check out these possible reasons that might be causing your plateau.
You’re restricting your calories too much
It’s true that you need to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight. However, there’s such a thing as restricting too many calories.
To lose weight and gain muscles, you need to put some quality fuel in your body to keep up with your workout demands. Not eating enough calories won’t allow your body to gain muscle. In fact, research has shown that the weight you lose from short but extreme caloric deficit diets often rebound after the diet has ended.
Sometimes, excluding a specific food group in your diet may also stagnate your workouts. Many people cut out sugar or carbs from their diet to expedite their workout goals, but that could cause you to be lethargic and unmotivated.
Instead of depriving yourself of your favourite foods, you can swap them out for healthier alternatives with less sugar and fat. That way, you can continue to enjoy your favourite flavours while still keeping yourself on track for your weight loss goals.
You’re not varying your workouts
Routine is the enemy of change and improvement. Doing the same workouts over and over again might be blocking your way to better fitness results. It would help if you kept your activities fresh to avoid getting bored and losing motivation.
When you vary your workouts, you’re also preventing your body from adapting to the hormonal responses in your body. That way, your body would have to work harder to keep up with the changes and new stimuli.
There are plenty of things you can do to shake up your exercise routine. You can start by exercising at a different time than you usually do or switch up your locations. You can even bring a friend/ accountability buddy to your gym with you to teach you new things and motivate each other.
Your testosterone level is down
Low testosterone levels are a double whammy for the efficiency of your workouts. Not only does testosterone play a massive role in developing muscle mass, but it is also involved in keeping your body composition. When your t-count is low, your estrogen takes over, making all the muscles you work so hard on turn to fat instead.
There could be a range of reasons why your testosterone levels are low. Lack of sleep is linked to a low testosterone count. Having too much body fat can also slow down your testosterone production, so make sure to include a good mixture of aerobic and strength exercises in your workout plan.
Also check out our post, “How to Naturally Boost Testosterone Levels as You Age.”
Alternatively, you can include a testosterone-boosting supplement like TestRX to amp up your testosterone production and other relevant hormones. This daily supplement can help you gain bigger muscles and improve your exercise performance using organic and effective ingredients. Besides that, you can also boost your sex drive and performance in bed in the long term.
You might not be getting enough sleep
During your sleep, your body releases a host of essential hormones like testosterone and growth hormone. Besides muscle building, these hormones are also critical to optimal repairing and healing.
Not only that, but sleep deprivation can also affect the hormones that control your eating. Without proper sleep, you tend to be hungrier in the morning and less satisfied with your food intake. That means you might set yourself back by some sleep deprivation binge eating.
But most importantly, going to the gym without enough sleep would also affect your focus while working out. You’d not be able to push as far as you’d like, or worse; you might injure yourself while lifting twice your weight.
Besides skipping the second cup of coffee, you can also try some relaxation techniques to quiet down your mind. Instead of using your phone right before your sleep, try swapping that out for a good book. There are many ways to combat sleeplessness, so keep experimenting until you find a ritual that works best for you.
You might be skipping your rest days
It might be tempting to skip recovery days, but as the adage goes: “no rest, no gain.” Hitting the gym every day to maximize your gains might be just the thing that’s preventing you from doing so.
The most effective way of determining the number of rest days you need is by taking into account your fitness level. In general, if you’re starting to go to the gym, you should take at least one rest day after three days of working out. But for a more advanced athlete, you can push your body for as much as four to five days before needing a break.
But that doesn’t mean you should veg out on your couch and watch TV on your rest days! Instead, take an active recovery day to do less stressful things on your body, like yoga, a long walk, or a slow run. Doing these low-impact activities during your rest days would allow you to burn some extra calories while giving your body a break.
You sit all day
Research suggests that doing 30 minutes of active exercise per day won’t undo a whole day of inactivity. So, while working out at the end of the day is better than not exercising at all, that doesn’t mean you’re getting the most out of your exercise routine.
It might be difficult to shake the habit you’re chained to your desk for an eight to ten-hour desk job, but you can incorporate some light activity when you’re taking your breaks. Instead of staring at your phone in the break room, you can take a walk, stand, or roam around the office a little. You can also set a ‘break timer’ for yourself every half an hour to stand up and take a quick stretch before getting back to work. Besides that, there are plenty of office-friendly exercises that you can do when you’re at your desk.
You’re not eating the right things
Trust us on this—80% of your abs are made in the kitchen. Working out regularly without eating a balanced diet is like wearing socks as shoes—there’s always something missing.
When it comes to food in your workout routine, it’s better to go for quality than quantity. Eggs, salmon, and chicken breast are all classic protein sources for muscle growth. Salmon, in particular, contains omega-3 fatty acids and a ton of other healthy vitamins that buff you up in no time.
Pre-workout prep is also super important to ensure that you have all the energy to tackle the weights. A good portion of carbohydrates and fats give you the energy boost that you need, but you could also take a few pre-workout supplements to get you going.
Fina our more about pre-workout supplements in our blog post, “The Importance of Pre-Workout Supplements.”
You are spot-reducing
Come summertime is where you see workout videos that target a specific part of your body. The fact is that spot reduction is a common misconception that many people subscribe to for hope. Fats are energy storages that your body draws from when it needs energy. Trying to slim one area down while keeping the rest is like forcing your body to only take energy from one spot—it doesn’t work like that.
Although you cannot pick and choose which part of your body to slim down, you can engage all your muscle groups in various workouts. Compound exercises like a plank or push-ups are great exercises that work many of your muscles in one go. That’s why you feel more tired doing them than, say, a few leg lifts.
Besides that, you’d also want to do more exercises that engage the core. Core exercises are the most effective fat-busters since they involve almost all of your muscle groups. As long as you’re clear with your goals and keep persisting, you’ll lose the stubborn body fat that’s hiding your beach-ready body.
You’re doing too much cardio
Movies would want you to believe that cardio is the only way to fitness. But although it is vital for calorie burning and strengthening your cardiovascular system, cardio can actually be harmful to your gains.
While cardio is great for losing excess fat, you might feel too wiped out to do exercises that actually build muscles after a long-running sesh. To develop bigger guns, you have to do strength and resistance training to put your muscles on tension. That way, you can create the microtears needed for bigger muscles. Like the previous tip, doing more compound exercises that engage all muscle groups would also help.
Your goals are unrealistic
When it comes to losing weight and building muscle, self-criticism, overestimation, and comparisons are your biggest enemies. The idea of getting a super body in 30 days may sound great, but you won’t be able to achieve it if you’re just starting to work out.
When you don’t make attainable goals, you’re just setting yourself up for failure. Rushing to the finish line without making adjustments for sustainability would burn you out at the end. Some people even revert to their “before” weight and size after achieving their goals because they are just so done with the gym.
It’s important to be brutally honest with yourself and know exactly where you are on your journey. Without a clear idea, you might trap yourself in a cycle of self-criticism and constant comparison with other people.