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Exercise But No Weight Loss

By Lily Medina ; Updated July 18, 2017

Obese or overweight individuals often struggle to lose weight even when they exercise regularly. Consequently, they often become discouraged and stop trying. Although a lack of weight loss despite effort and dedication can seem depressing, research shows that exercise is still extremely worthwhile. You can try a few tricks to boost the effects of your exercise to stimulate weight loss, but even if you remain the same weight, exercise still improves your health significantly.

Calorie Compensation

When you exercise but don’t limit your food intake, then your body naturally craves more food, to make up for the energy you spent exercising. This happens even if you eat more than your body truly needs for energy. This effect may occur subconsciously, especially if you eat when tired; or, it may occur consciously, especially if you use food to reward yourself for working out.

In order to lose weight, you must consume fewer calories than you burn each day. Hence, you shouldn’t let yourself eat more simply because you exercised. To thwart this hindrance, count your calories. If you consume as many calories as you burn each day, not including your workouts, then exercising will lead to weight loss more easily. If you eat fewer calories than you burn, and you also exercise, then weight loss becomes even more likely.

Muscle Gain

Remember that exercise not only burns fat, it also builds muscle. Muscle takes up less space than fat; hence, if you burn 5 lbs. of fat but also gain 5 lbs. of muscle, then you will weigh the same amount, but your body will be smaller. Hence, you can’t rely on your scale to give you the whole picture. Through exercising, you could burn fat effectively, increase your strength, improve your health and become more slender -- without ever seeing a change on the scale.

To burn fat without gaining as much muscle, focus on aerobic exercise rather than strength training. Jogging, swimming, walking, step aerobics and yoga keep your heart rate high enough to burn calories but don’t pack on too much muscle.

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Other Ways to Measure Success

Because the scale reflects more than simply fat burned, you should also measure your body periodically; you might lose inches even if you don’t lose pounds. Measure your waist, hips, thigh circumference and upper arm circumference each week or month and compare to previous measurements. If you have burned enough calories to lose fat successfully, then your measurements will slowly shrink.

You Still Get Major Health Benefits

A study in the “Journal of Applied Physiology” found that obese people who exercise regularly may not lose weight, but they still benefit from decreased fat tissue overall, particularly decreased abdominal fat, increased muscle, improved body mass index levels, smaller waist circumferences, improved cardiorespiratory fitness, lower health risks and better health overall.

If you wish that exercise only burned fat, without building muscle, then remember that muscle burns slightly more calories than fat, even when you’re just sitting around. Muscle also helps your body avoid injury and benefits your health in general.

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