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Why Am I Not Losing Weight In A Calorie Deficit? 7 Reasons 2023
Does this sound familiar? You are exercising and eating fewer calories than you are burning, but you still aren’t losing weight? Nothing can be more aggravating than when you do everything correctly, but the pounds are not coming off. So if you’re asking yourself, “Why am I not losing weight in a calorie deficit?” you are certainly not alone.
Read on to learn the top seven reasons why a calorie-restricted diet might not work for you and if keeping yourself in a calorie deficit is healthy. When you’re finished reading this article, you’ll be able to understand how you’re in a calorie deficit but not losing weight.
Why Am I Not Losing Weight In A Calorie Deficit?
- Muscle Gain
- Water Weight
- Get Enough Shut-Eye
- Menstrual Cycle
- Be Patient
7 Reasons For Eating In A Calorie Deficit But Not Losing Weight
Here are the top reasons you are in a calorie deficit but not losing weight.
Typically, to gain muscle, you need additional calories in your diet. However, if you are consuming a diet rich in protein and strength training regularly, you may be simultaneously gaining muscle and losing fat. When this happens, your weight may remain the same or increase.
Gaining muscle while losing body fat is called body recomposition. Muscle weighs more than fatty tissue, so when you lose fat but substitute it with muscle, the number on the scale won’t change.
Increased muscle mass is likely the culprit to not seeing a change on your scale if you are new to work out. Muscle is typically the first thing your body puts on when you start a new exercise routine. Add in some additional protein intake, and new muscle will likely form.
Genetics can also play a part in whether you gain muscle quickly or not. Ask your relatives if it is easy for them to put on muscle. If it’s in your genes to gain muscle easily, this may be the reason you have difficulty losing weight.
However, gaining strength is excellent for your body. It helps you be leaner, stronger, and healthier. Consider yourself lucky if this is why you do not see a number change on the scale.
Lastly, if you have osteoporosis and have recently begun a new weight training routine, bone density might be why you aren’t losing weight. Research has shown that osteoporosis patients who start exercise typically increase the thickness and hardness of their bones. This change in density can also contribute to weight gain.
It’s important to remember, however, that even if the scale number doesn’t change in your sustainable weight loss journey, your body composition may change, making you appear leaner and allowing your clothes to fit more comfortably.
Water weight gain happens when your body holds onto water instead of excreting it through urine. Water retention is a widespread reason for weight gain. There are a lot of reasons your body might be retaining water, such as:
- Pre-menopause (changes in hormones)
- Pre-menstruation (fluid retention peaks on the first day of your period)
- Chemotherapy treatments
- Blood pressure medications
- Parkinson’s medications
- Certain birth control pills
- Heart disease. Fluid retention associated with heart disease is called edema.
- Pregnancy. Water can retain in the legs if you do not walk or frequently move.
- Kidney disease. It can cause water buildup in the legs. This happens when the kidneys cannot correctly filter out water and other liquids.
Another reason for excess water weight is high salt consumption. Have you ever eaten Chinese food and then felt puffy afterward? That puffiness is just water weight.
This occurs because eating salt makes you thirsty, and thus you drink more. Eating salty foods also causes your body to retain more fluid than you would otherwise when eating a non-salty meal and makes trying to lose excess weight more difficult.
Interestingly, increased sodium intake is also linked to an increased risk of obesity. Researchers think this is because many high-sodium foods are also high in fat, such as macaroni and cheese, pizza, fries, and other processed, unhealthy foods.
To decrease your intake of sodium, first cut down on all convenience and processed foods. Replace them with fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables makes a huge difference in salt consumption and thus the pounds on the scale.
Get Enough Shut-Eye
If you are snoozing less than 8 hours a night, this could be the reason for your lack of weight loss. A study done in 2010 took two groups of people and had them eat the same daily calorie amount for two weeks.
The only difference was in their amount of sleep daily. One group got 8.5 hours a night while the other only slept for 5.5 hours. At the end of the two weeks, they found the group with less sleep had reduced loss of body fat (by 55%!) and increased hunger!
Feeling sleepy can also affect your ability to have enough energy for physical activity. Therefore, a good night’s rest is vital to fat loss. Here are some tips for better sleep:
- Keep a schedule: Differences in your schedule can lead to changes in your metabolism and make your blood sugars more erratic, making it more difficult for your weight loss progress.
- Make your room dark: Research shows that exposure to light (artificial) is linked to a higher risk of gaining weight.
- No midnight snacks: According to research, eating before you lay down at night may hurt your ability to lose weight.
- Chill out: Scientific evidence has shown that chronic stress leads to food cravings, poor sleep, and decreased motivation to work out.
- Be an Early Riser: The early bird does get the worm! Per this study from 2015, people who quantified themselves as early risers were likelier to stick with a weight loss plan than those who went to bed late.
As mentioned before, that time of the month comes with water retention due to fluctuating hormones. As a result, weight can fluctuate up to 5 pounds during your period. The good news is these water retention and weight fluctuations go away within a few days of starting your cycle.
Chronic stress is just bad all around. It’s terrible for your health, it’s bad for your mental status, and it’s also bad for your waistline. When in a constant state of too much stress, your body releases two hormones, adrenaline, and cortisol. Adrenaline is known as the fight-or-flight hormone. It prepares you that it’s time to get things done.
Cortisol, on the other hand, is the problem hormone. It tells your body to stop all functions in the event of a crisis. Cortisol suppresses the body’s ability to function in different areas such as digestive, reproductive, sleep, immune, and metabolic processes. And, if your metabolic functions are at a standstill, fat loss is very difficult.
Try reducing your cortisol levels by:
- Getting adequate sleep
- Sticking to a schedule
- Cutting down on caffeine
The best way to manage your cortisol levels is by cutting down on stress and managing your mental health. Try to take deep breaths, indulge in your favorite hobbies, or get a new one like yoga! Start by making small and simple changes. They add up quickly.
When you weigh yourself can significantly impact what the scale says. For example, your weight can change throughout the day due to what you are consuming. Also, the clothes you wear can influence what the scale says.
For example, let’s say you weigh yourself first thing in the morning on Monday. You are only wearing your pj’s and haven’t drank any water. Then you decide to weigh yourself Tuesday afternoon after you have consumed a half liter of water. Your weight on Tuesday afternoon will be significantly higher due to water weight and clothing than your weight on Monday.
That’s why you should choose the same time daily to weigh yourself. Ideally, choose early in the morning before you have eaten or drank anything. This way, you always know the data will be equal from day to day.
Another reason you might not see changes is that it’s too soon. To lose weight healthily, you must have a calorie deficit of 250 to 500 calories daily. Therefore, you should lose about half to one pound per week. This is the optimal amount of calorie deficit to achieve lasting and healthy weight loss.
But this approach is going to take time. Trust the process. For example, if you are 200 pounds and want to lose 20 pounds, that will take around 20 weeks. So you probably won’t be able to see noticeable changes before being on a balanced diet and exercise habits for eight weeks or more.
It’s difficult to wait for results but take heart. Making small changes leads to significant changes in the future that are lasting.
How Does A Calorie Deficit Work?
It has long been said that you must put your body in a calorie deficit to lose weight. A caloric deficit means eating fewer calories than your body burns.
For example, if you are burning calories at 2000 daily but are eating 3,000 calories daily, the thought is you will gain weight since you are consuming more than you burn.
Alternatively, if you are consuming 2,000 calories daily but burning 3,000, you should burn fat and lose weight to provide energy for your body.
When it comes to getting your body into a calorie deficit, there are only two options: eat less than you burn or exercise. But, of course, most people like to have a combination of both to increase their fat-burning potential.
However, for some people, exercise and decreased calorie intake still don’t provide the desired results. Read on to find out why this can happen.
Effective Ways To Follow A Calorie Deficit
Using a calorie deficit as a tool for weight management is a great way to see results. To start this calorie-counting process, you should first determine the number of your typical calories burned daily (resting energy needs or basal metabolic rate). There are many online websites where you can fill in numbers to determine your calories, but if you wish to put in the calculation yourself, the Mifflin-St Jeor equation is the most trustworthy and has the least error range.
- Men: (4.536 × weight in pounds) + (15.88 × height in inches) − (5 × age) + 5 = Resting Energy Needs
- Women: (4.536 × weight in pounds) + (15.88 × height in inches) − (5 × age) − 161 = Resting Energy Needs
After calculating your resting energy needs, you must multiply that number by an activity factor to get your total calorie needs. You can find these activity factors below.
- x1.2 if you do not exercise
- x1.375 if you exercise lightly 1-3 days per week
- x1.55 if you exercise 3-5 days per week
- x1.725 if you exercise 6-7 days per week
- x1.9 if you exercise daily
Now, you should have a great starting number of how many calories you’ll need daily to maintain weight. Therefore, to put yourself at a calorie deficit, take away 250 to 500 calories from your resting energy needs plus the activity factor to determine your total calories daily on a calorie deficit.
Here is an example:
A 40-year-old, 170-pound woman who exercises 3-5 days per week on a 500-calorie deficit:
(4.536 × 170) + (15.88 × 64) − (5 × 40) − 161 = Resting Energy Needs
(771) + (1016) – (200) – 161 = 1426 (Resting Energy Needs)
1426 X 1.55 (activity factor for exercising 3-5 days weekly) = 2,210 calories
To be at a 500-calorie deficit, you now take away 500 calories from the total calories.
2,210 – 500 = 1710
So in this example, you would need to consume 1710 calories daily to lose about a pound of body weight weekly.
Tracking your food intake and workouts is also essential to ensure you are actually in a calorie deficit. If you’re not keeping track, it is easy to veer off the plan without realizing it, and tracking it all helps keep you accountable and aware of your habits.
Following a calorie deficit is a common weight loss strategy that is effective, healthy, and sustainable as long as you do it healthily. The results are not fast, but they will be ongoing.
If you do not see the calorie deficit results, you’ll want to add an exercise program. However, stick with the program if you already have a calorie deficit and exercise. You are likely building muscle mass and probably experiencing some improved energy. And that is better than any number on your scale.
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