Updated: May 11, 2021
Working out for a few months now and not seeing results? This may be why...
So you’ve just started a new exercise program or new diet. You’ve got the new shoes, gym clothes, calendar, and grocery list to go with it. You’re all pumped up and ready to go. You start off with a bang! You get in all your workouts, eat all the “right” foods and are SURE you’re going to see a huge change...in two weeks top! And THEN three months in you’re not seeing ANY results, or only minimal results...and you start to wonder why. And then you start to lose steam. This is a problem that plagues so many of us. It can knock you straight off track and steal your motivation. Let’s dive in and see why this may be happening. Here is a list of possible reasons:
The most common answer is that you’re not pushing yourself. You do the workouts, but without any "Oomph". You’re just going through the motions and not focusing on every rep and set and getting the most out of each. You've got to make each workout count to get the most out of it.
You're only working out once or twice per week. This is plenty to maintain and it's fantastic for your overall health and wellness, but it's not enough to see noticeable results, if that's what you're shooting for. Even if you're working with a trainer once or twice a week, it's up to you to get in to get in some additional activity on the other days. Even a couple of 20 to 30 min walks can built into your week can help you to see results when added to your already existing plan. Have a dance party in the living room, get outside and do some yard work, go for a jog. The possibilities are endless!
You’re not getting sufficient protein to build muscle mass. You need sufficient protein to build muscle and to aid in muscle recovery. If you're not getting enough protein, then you're not going to be building muscle very efficiently. Plus, it takes the body more energy to break down protein (more calorie burn) and protein can help you feel full for longer, so you're not wanting to snack as often.
You’re eating too little. You need fuel to build muscle and last through workouts. When you don’t give your body adequate fuel and nutrition, it will take it from where it can get it (even from muscle). In turn, you may lose muscle mass. Feed your body what it needs. Eating too little is a recipe for disaster, especially if you're working out. You need the calories to ensure you have the energy to power through your workouts.
You're not properly hydrating. In order for your body to function properly in all aspects, it needs to be properly hydrated. Scientific studies have shown that water can be key in weight loss. So drink up, folks!
You’re eating too many calories to lose fat. Love junk food and desserts? I know I do! It’s got to be in moderation though. Also, we sometimes think we’re eating less than we actually are. That packet of ketchup, that salad dressing, all that extra cheese on that potato, the fruity beverages, protein bars (which some have as much sugar as a Snickers bar!)...all these things add up. Even if you track your food, you may be overlooking calories. You may also be eating on the run (in the car), skipping meals and then overdoing it, or not planning nutritious meals and are instead planning quick, convenient ones.
You don’t do sufficient volume to stimulate an adaptive response.
You don’t take rest days. Recovery is essential for muscle growth and performance. So while you may feel like working out every day means you'll see results faster, if you’re not letting your muscles recover, you’re not going to be able to make your workouts as productive, and all those workouts will be counterproductive.
Not enough intensity and too much rest. Maybe you’re taking it easy through your workouts and taking long rests between exercises. You're not raising your heart rate or ever breaking a sweat. Don't get me wrong, no sweat does not always mean ineffective workout. However, too little intensity equals too little results.
You may not be overloading progressively with heavier weights. If you've been using your 5 lb weights for as long as you can remember and you've noticed your results starting to plateau, then it may be time to increase the load. Get yourself some heavier weights. You must always be progressing in order to continue to see results.
If lifting heavy, or intense training, you may not be taking enough rest between sets. When doing short, very intense bursts of work (like lifting at your max for 8 to 12 reps), then you have to give your muscles time to recover their energy system. The muscles need to replenish the glucose their using to fuel the muscles in order to perform each set to it's max potential. Think of it as a one to three ratio (in general) for intense work versus recovery. This means that (on average) for every one minute of intense work/loading/lifting that you do, you need three minutes of recovery in order for that energy system for those muscles to be fully restored. This is also the case for athletes in training. For every all out, intense sprint, an active recovery period is necessary for the muscles to be powered up enough to produce that same power for the next sprint.
You’re not getting enough sleep. Sleep is essential for muscle recovery, physical performance and a number of other functions. Many studies have shown significant correlation between lack of sleep and weight gain.
You may be overtraining. Too much of a good thing isn't necessarily a good thing. You AND your muscles need rest and recovery.
You get injured. This will certainly put a wrench in the plans. This can happen to anyone, but if you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re not properly hydrating, you’re not using correct form or you’re overtraining, then you’re more prone to injury.
You give up. You won’t always be motivated. The key is to keep pushing yourself through the slump. Discipline can make up for what motivation lacks. If you workout only when you're motivated, you're setting yourself up for failure. You've got to have discipline. Remember your "Why," especially on the days you feel completely unmotivated.
Too much cardio. If your focus is on cardio and you leave out the resistance training then you will likely not see "good" results. Too much cardio makes you lose muscle mass and this makes your metabolism slow. As a result, the fat burning mechanism in your body slows down. Thus, your weight-loss results won't be as quick as they used to be. Resistance training is a key piece to the puzzle. You can’t depend on cardio alone.
You have poor exercise technique. If you’re not doing the exercises correctly, you not only set yourself up for injury, but you won’t stimulate the muscles in the correct way to build muscle effectively.
You shy away from certain kinds of exercises. Maybe they’re uncomfortable. Maybe you just don’t like them. Maybe someone told you you shouldn’t do this or that. Be sure to do your own research, make sure you’re in correct form and go for it.
You are focusing on the scale and not on the process. The scale is a deceptive form of measuring progress. Don’t focus on the numbers on the scale. Focus instead on how your clothes are fitting.
You vary your training so much that you’re not actually able to progress anything.
Maybe you have been making progress, but you’re too close to the situation to see it. Take progress pics. You won’t be able to see the day to day results, but if you have progress pics several weeks or months apart, you’ll be able to see the progress you’ve made.
Maybe you’re doing training that’s not suitable towards your specific goals.
Maybe you’re not sure how to measure your progress.
You may be deficient in some micronutrient that is systematically preventing muscle growth or fat loss.
Maybe you’re trying everything all at once and are thus not really going anywhere at all.
You’re not following a specific or progressive plan tailored to your particular body type and needs.
You may be moving in the right direction and just need to be patient with yourself and the process.
Of course there are many many other reasons. My list isn’t comprehensive, but these are the most common reasons in my experience. Take some time to access why you may not be progressing. It could be more complicated...or more simple, than you think. Either way, evaluating the “Whys” will help you more effectively create an action plan. Just don’t give up. Never, ever give up. If the plan isn’t working, change the plan, not the goal.