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Are You Exercising But Gaining Weight?

Have you ever encountered this fairly frequent problem?  You’re going to the gym…you’re exercising routinely…maybe 3 or 4 times a week, yet the scale won’t budge or actually goes up?!  Talk about frustrating!  Well in this short article, we’ll talk about a few things to first take a look at that could be sabotaging your progress, complicating the situation or standing in the way of the fat loss you’re trying to achieve.

Consideration #1: Remember muscle weighs more than fat!

If you’re beginning to exercise and especially using weights, remember that you may actually be gaining muscle at the same time you’re losing fat.  And if this is the case, your weight may stay the same or even go up!  What you will want to pay attention to more specifically is are you losing inches (I suggest measuring every week when starting a new exercise regimen) and are you seeing improvements in your body composition (which is more important than the number on the scale anyhow)?

  What do I mean by body composition?  Well that refers to the percentage of lean muscle & bone vs. fat tissue in your body.  The leaner you are the higher percentage of muscle & bone and the lower the percentage of fat you’ll have, which can be readily measured fairly accurately by hand-held electronic body composition devices available for purchase online for less than $50! 

If you are dropping fat and the inches are melting off but the scale isn’t changing,  I wouldn’t worry too much about this, as you’re headed in the right direction.  Make sure you’re consuming plenty of fluids simultaneously as being dehydrated can also slow the breakdown of fat and contribute to fat loss plateau.

Consideration #2: Do you have signs of hormonal imbalance?

While this can apply to both men and women, it typically is more marked for women as it relates to weight loss, as women’s hormonal cycles can dramatically influence water retention and weight gain and plateauing.  If you’re female, over 35, and have symptoms like shortening periods, irregular cycles or heavier flow, endometriosis, fibrocystic breasts, weight gain, blood sugar irregularities, or fertility issues, these may all be signs of something we term ‘estrogen dominance’, which will contribute to greater difficulty in losing weight. 

Getting your hormone levels tested and then consulting with a qualified health care provider on how to balance your hormones safely and naturally can be extremely important in helping one achieve weight loss!  This also applies to men increasingly over the age of 40, as testosterone levels gradually drop starting around age 30 and more tends to get converted into estrogen, which eventually results in the condition of low testosterone relative to estrogen for many men, creating a ‘relative estrogen dominance’ for guys too.  Symptoms of this for men can include stubborn belly fat, gynecomastia (male breast enlargement), thinning leg or secondary body hair, moodiness or a grumpy disposition, and increased cardiovascular problems. 

Again, if you are a man and showing some of these signs, don’t hesitate in getting your hormone levels checked as it could be as simple as balancing your testosterone to estrogen that is standing in the way of your weight loss!

That’s where the paleo diet comes in—with so many fresh and whole foods with no added sugars to them—it naturally supports more optimal insulin and blood sugar levels so that you’re not suffering from all the woeful detrimental effects of too much sugar. Talk about a sweet, not-so-sweet alternative!

Consideration #3: Are you drinking enough water?

This sounds simple but it is profound as most people are chronically dehydrated.  While individual hydration needs do differ, an approximation that many individuals could go by is consuming half their body weight in pounds in ounces of hydrating fluids (i.e. water, herbal teas, fresh pressed fruit/veggie juices, and coconut water).  Water is obviously lost through exercising and without enough hydrating fluids, your fat loss will grind to a painstakingly slow process.  So, remember to keep track of this simple but powerful influence on your fat loss!

Consideration #4: Do you have signs of a thyroid and/or adrenal issue?

This relates somewhat to point 2 re: hormones.  Our adrenal glands and thyroid control and greatly influence our metabolic rate (i.e. how fast we are burning food), as well as influence things like our energy levels, immunity, temperature regulation, and more.  Many individuals, due to modern lifestyles, pollution, overwork, medications, and more are ‘wearing out’ these regulatory endocrine glands, which is additionally sabotaging their ability to lose weight.  This is such a big issue nowadays, I also wrote a book on this subject with a Canadian health coach (see: for more information). 

Being assessed for this via a qualified healthcare provider and changing your lifestyle, supporting with supplements, and possibly prescriptive supports can help ensure this is standing in your way of progress! 

Consideration #5: Are you eating & drinking what you should be?

This should go without saying but one can’t expect to exercise and still eat nutrient poor, processed foods and lose weight, which hopefully now you should realize after reading the Paleo diet book!  Many people still slip up though and in the realm of exercise ‘foods,’ many ‘protein bars’ and ‘energy drinks’ can be the culprit of this.  Often packed with sugar, hydrogenated fats, and various man-made chemicals, these items are rarely highly nutritious and thus you have to be very careful with taking a close look at such labels. 

Remember some of these items are made with the intent of helping you gain weight by packing on muscle (and some fat) for those people who are trying to bulk up!  So, don’t let yourself fall victim to this by simply not paying attention to what you’re consuming pre- and post-workout!