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Why is My Exercise Routine Making Me Fat?

Updated on August 2, 2016

On fitness web forums across the internet people are expressing their frustration and disappointment when their exercise regimens aren’t helping them to lose weight and may actually be making them put it on.

Here we’ll look at some of the reasons for this and possible solutions.

Reason 1. We overestimate the number of calories burned during exercise.

An individual’s calorie-burning ability in any particular exercise varies according to age, weight, sex, workout intensity and genetic make up. On average, for example, a person burns about 100 calories for every mile s/he runs, so a 4 mile run will burn off the same number of calories in a standard-sized chocolate bar.

Other examples are:

Aerobics 350 calories/hour

Kickboxing 600 calories/hour

Walking 200 calories/hour

Weight training 350 calories/hour

Sitting quietly 70 calories/hour


· Watch your portion sizes

· Have treats in moderation

· Keep to healthy diet – plenty of veg, lean meat, fish, pulses etc.

Reason 2. Your fitness regimen has plateaued.

Doing the same routines and putting in the same effort means that you’re in a comfort zone and your body isn’t burning more than it needs to.  In addition you risk becoming bored and stopping exercise altogether.


·         Try interval training – short bursts of intense exercise between your usual pace, in the same workout.  For example, if you’re a runner try taking in some hills, inclines on the treadmill, or sprint between points on your outdoor route.  Some cardio machines at the gym have an interval training program, so use it or shake up your routine with a boxercise class.

·         Invest in a cardio monitor - Polar, Sigma, Garmin and Target Fitness all make these handy gadgets.  Keeping your heart rate higher than it is currently during a workout, means that you’re working harder so you’ll soon start seeing results.

·         It’s a common misconception that fat burns at low intensity workouts.  Fat is the body’s second choice when it comes to fuel (carbohydrate being the first) and it takes a lot more energy to start burning fat.  So increasing the intensity – speed or weights – and making the heart beat harder and faster is important.

Reason 3. You’re having too many isotonic drinks and gels before, during or after a workout.

These drinks are a solution of sugar (carbs) and salts that help you ‘re-energise’ after a workout or during a long exercise session such as a marathon. If you have too many because you’ve overestimated the calories you’ve burned – see Reason 1 above – the sugar is stored in the body and the salt may make you retain water.


· Only use them during or after prolonged exercise. For shorter sessions such as your usual hour in the gym, just drink diluted squash and have plenty of water.

· Find out more about the pros and cons of sports drinks here.

Reason 4. Muscle weighs heavier than fat.

So as you workout and lose fat you’ll develop and tone up your muscles.


·         Deal with it and enjoy your new energy-burning powerhouse!  Fat itself doesn’t burn as many calories as muscle which is much more metabolically active.  As you develop your muscles, especially the big muscle groups like the gluteals and quadriceps (butt and thighs), you burn more calories even when you’re not exercising and are just doing regular activities.

·          Our bodies should always have a layer of fat over the muscle (unless you’re a pre-competition body builder) and the layer of fat varies depending on the area of the body and your genetic make up.  However when the fat sits on nicely toned muscle it looks tauter, less wobbly and more attractive.  So alongside your cardio routines, incorporate some toning work that will activate specific muscle groups.  Exercises such as Swiss ball workouts and Pilates will ensure your body looks great.

Reason 5. Some weight gain is water.

Glycogen is the muscles’ essential energy store and is stored along with water. This glycogen is burned during exercise and replaced when we eat and drink.


· Simply remember this when you step on the scale and be reassured that a well hydrated body is a healthy body and will serve you during exercise so that you enjoy it more.

Above all, pay attention to how you feel in yourself, how you look in the mirror and how your clothes feel rather than what the scale is telling you.


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    • Temirah profile image

      Temirah 6 years ago

      Thanks for your comments guys. Making good choices is a valid point too.

    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 6 years ago

      I would like to add that food choices plays a large role in addition to exercise. Doing both will give you better results than if you do one without the other.

      Food choices includes eating low glycemic carbohydrates (such as fruits and vegetables) and avoiding sugar and processed and deep-fried foods.

    • chasemillis profile image

      chasemillis 6 years ago

      Lots of good information here!! I think I'll put a link to this in my workout hubs