Saturated fat found in red meat, butter and cheese will clog your arteries – right? I’ve been telling my patients this for years. Then like most of you, I read the recent headlines touting saturated does not contribute to heart disease….
You eat a healthy diet, avoid junk foods and workout several times a week … yet the scale continues to creep up. I hear this all the time in my private practice. Most of my clients are pretty savvy when it comes to nutrition. So what’s the deal? I may have some answers. Here are the top 8 sneaky causes of weight gain:
1. Inadequate amounts of fiber (prebiotics). Who would have thought that the BACTERIA IN YOUR INTESTINES would affect your weight! New research is showing that the types of bacteria you have in your gut affect your weight as well as overall health. It turns out that obese people have different types of bacteria as compared to lean people. These “bad” bacteria can extract more calories from food than “good bacteria”. So what do these bad bacteria like to eat? Fat and and other foods found in the typical Western diet. (like refined carbohydrates and processed foods). On the other hand, foods high in prebiotics or fiber feed the good bacteria that may actually help keep us thin. So think about that the next time you reach for a cookie instead of an apple. Starve those fat loving critters in your intestines by eating more fiber!
Tip: make sure you get adequate amounts of fruits, vegetables and whole grains daily
2. Overestimating the impact of your exercise sessions on your weight. How many times has that little voice in your head said ” I can eat that – I just worked out”. Sorry but it’s still 80% diet, 20% exercise! A few thoughts:
– Exercising 4 times a week is probably not enough to promote weight loss if you spend 15-18 hrs a day sitting (and/or sleeping).
- Don’t think the calorie counters on the exercise equipment in your gym are accurate as they can be off by 30%! Reference
Tip: read my previous post on how to Stop Outeating Your Workouts
3. Spending too many hours on your butt. Think about how many hours you sit a day. I bet it’s at least 18 hrs including your sleep, sitting at a desk, eating a meal, watching tv, etc. Not only does sitting burn minimal calories but it can increase risk of health problems. Consider getting an activity tracker to help motivate (or humiliate you) into moving more. Most of my clients say these trackers make a big difference. The ideal goal would to walk 10,000 steps a day.
Tip: read my previous post on the Hazards of Sitting. And if you are one of those people using a weight loss app (myfitnesspal or LoseIt), STOP giving yourself extra calories when you exercise.
4. Inadequate amounts of sleep. Studies have shown that sleep deprived people are more likely to pack on the pounds.
Tip: make it a priority to get more zzzz’s.
5. Too much eating out/ ordering in. Most New Yorkers spend more time in restaurants (or ordering in) then they do in their kitchens. I’m guilty of this one! And even if you’re making healthy choices in restaurants, there’s a good chance you’re consuming more calories than you think from larger portions and hidden fat. This one isn’t rocket science but I still see many people who forget about this likely cause of weight gain.
Tip: try to cook a healthy meal a few times a week or at least cut back on portions in restaurants.
6. Sneaky calories. These are the “little things” that are appear healthy but pack in more calories that you would think. Examples, whole wheat wraps (can be as high as 300 calories for just the bread!), small containers of vinaigrette salad dressing (like the ones found at Hale and Hearty) for 375 calories, glass of wine for 150 calories, the extra bite or two of your boyfriends ice cream or the few chips you grab off your kids plate.
Tip: all calories count. Consider keeping a food log.
7. Neglecting weight training. Calling all cardio bunnies, this one is for you! I have so many clients who spend hours on the elliptical or treadmill and neglect weights. You need weight training to build/preserve muscle mass which a more metabolically active tissue that fat. Cardio burns more calories, but the weight training will ultimately speed your metabolism more in the long run. In my opinion, the ideal program would be 2 days of weight training and 3 days of cardio (even short HIT sessions) pic credit
Tip: add in 2 weight training sessions a week
Have you found any other sneaky causes of weight gain?
You spend hours at the gym but can’t seem to drop a pound. Or maybe you’re now training for a half marathon and find you actually gained a few pounds. What is going on? Isn’t exercise supposed to help you LOSE weight? Well it can – but chances are that you are “outeating your workout”. In other words, you are taking in more calories than you think … in sneaky ways!
This is actually a common scenario I see with my clients. I think there a few things going on.
First, exercise can make some people feel hungrier. I find that I get especially hungry after weight training vs. cardio.
Second, you may be adding in more snacks that you did before. Example, a late afternoon snack before your 6 pm spin class.
Third, as you amp up the exercise, you may also find yourself increasing your carb intake. While carbs are needed for energy especially during longer cardio sessions, many people overdo it. I recently had a client who lost quite a bit of weight and followed a low carb diet. She had a nice balance going between her caloric intake, carb intake, energy levels and exercise. She then started to compete in team events (like Tough Mudder events). Her pre-race bagel turned into an everyday thing … along with more carbs during the day. Soon the scale started to move upwards. Once we figured out what was going on, we cut back on her carbs a bit, and her weight dropped back down.
Fourth, we may rationalize that we can eat more when we are in exercise mode. “I can have this second piece of pizza – I’ll run an extra 2 miles tomorrow”. I find this little voice to be the most destructive one of all!
10 Tips to stop outeating your workout
If your goal is to lose weight, keep in mind that weight loss is still 80% diet, 20% exercise for most people. While I am a HUGE fan of exercise and encourage all my clients to “move more”, you still have to be super careful with your diet.
1. If your workouts take place in the gym, keep in mind that many machines don’t post accurate calorie burns (did you really burn 500 calories on the elliptical machine when you barely broke a sweat? Hmmm) pic credit
2. If you are using an app to track your food, don’t pay attention to the calories burned during exercise. Many people think ”now I can eat those calories I just burned off”. Nope! Stick to prescribed calorie level to lose weight (1200-1500 for many women and 1600-1900 for many men)
3. Don’t think that taking a spin class 3 times a week is all you need for weight loss. You still need to burn more calories during the day. Here is where the activity trackers come in. Ideally, you would also walk 10,000 steps in addition to your formal exercise.
4. Pay special attention to the times around your workout. You want to provide your body with adequate pre/post fuel. Ideally, consume some carbs prior to a cardio workout and some carbs/little protein afterwards. The duration/intensity of your workout as well as your weight and your goals would dictate how much you would need to eat. I might suggest a banana before a 4 mile morning run and a greek yogurt with berries as your breakfast after the run. No need for bagels at this point! If are doing w weight training session, the food would be the same for the most part – ideally a little protein/carb before and then after. So if you were going to weight train after work at 6 pm, you could have an energy bar with ~ 15 gm protein/some carbs (~200 calories) before working out, then have a dinner after your workout that includes protein/vegetable and moderate amount of healthy carb.
5. Since you may be adding in more calories around the time of your workout, you may need to cut back on calories at some other time during the day. Examples: wine, bread at dinner, cheese in your salad, high calorie salad dressings, smaller portions of carbs or protein at dinner.
6. Stay hydrated. Often times we think we are hungry but our bodies really want fluid
7. Get enough sleep. Your muscles need rest to repair/rebuild and adequate sleep is key. In addition, being sleep deprived will make you hungrier.
9. Pay attention to what your body needs to fuel itself best. I know when I first started cycling years ago, the night before I rode, I would eat about 4 cups of pasta and then have a bagel in the morning. As I tend to do long rides (60+ miles), I felt I would “bonk” if I didn’t eat a lot of carbs the night before. Now I know I can get away with a lot less carbs at night, have a banana/yogurt in the morning as long as I drink a sports drink and have a few gels when I ride. Trial and error. Pic of me carrying my bike over GWB as the ramp was closed!
10. More is not better when it comes to exercise. I find that some of my clients that exercise the most have the most difficulty losing weight. Too much exercise makes you tired and hungry. In my opinion, the ideal program for weight loss would include some kind of strength training 2-3 times a week, cardio 3-5 times a week (30-45 min) and at least 8000 steps a day. Of course, this will very depending upon your individual goals!