Exercise tips for weight loss

Wondering why all your efforts in the gym aren't paying off? Fitness writer, Katie Hiscock shares her top tips to help you get the most from your workouts, shed the pounds and stay on track...

Exercise for weight loss tips

If your waistline is groaning from the excesses of Christmas and you want to kick-start a fitness routine that lasts well beyond the winter months, here are our tips to help you stay on track and shed the pounds...

Remember why you’re doing it

To lose weight, you need to be in calorie deficit from your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). In plain English, the amount of calories you eat needs to be less than the amount of calories you burn each day. If you’re embarking on a fitness and weight loss programme, it’s worth remembering the basic principle of this energy balance equation and finding out roughly what your TDEE is to understand exactly why that extra gym class or eliminating that daily bag of crisps at lunch can help you lose weight. You can find TDEE calculators online.


Beware the compensation effectWeights

Going to the gym but not losing weight? Studies show that people who exercise often cancel out the calories they burn by eating more. This could be because their appetite increases, or simply as a reward for a good gym session. So beware of that seemingly innocuous hot chocolate after a gym session – it may actually being undoing all your hard work!


Watch out for sports drinks

Sports drinks contain salts and sugars to replenish what the body has lost through sweating that water alone can’t replace. Their purpose is to bring the levels of minerals in your blood closer to their normal levels, so you can continue your workout as if you just started. Many of them are packed with carbohydrates however – which means they also contain calories. Unless you need the energy contained in these drinks to fuel your activity (such as a long run of over an hour), it’s wiser to choose simple water, or a zero-calorie electrolyte drink and avoid the hidden calories.


Walk the dogActivity doesn’t just mean the gym

Moving more doesn’t mean you need to join a gym. From walking up stairs to gardening, any activity that gets your heart rate going and your muscles moving will have an effect. 


Walk your way to weight loss

You don’t necessarily need to take up a high intensity Zumba class to lose weight either. Research shows that moderate exercise, such a walking, can be just as effective for weight loss since it doesn’t trigger the appetite hormones, which can lead to you reaching for the biscuit tin after a hard workout.


Consider the hidden fat

While we need a certain level of fat to be healthy, excess fat isn’t good for anyone. Everyone holds fat in different places and where you get fat deposits depends on your genetics, lifestyle and gender. Subcutaneous fat is held beneath the surface of the skin and is the visible fat that we can see, while visceral (or ectopic) fat – the danger fat - is hidden fat held around the body’s organs.

“Your body wants to get rid of the visceral fat before it gets rid of the subcutaneous fat,” says Andrew Tew, Running Services Manager for ASICS. “This is why a lot of people get disheartened when they go to the gym – particularly when they start going as they expect to see an instant result around the outside of their body, which they often don't because the body wants to get rid of visceral fat first.”


Shun the scalesScales

As you lose fat and build muscle, keep in mind that muscle weighs more than fat, so you may find that your weight actually creeps up. Shun the scales in favour of a body composition test, which will measure your fat and muscle percentage and show the progress you’re making. You can buy simple body composition scales for home use, but the more accurate scales can be found in some gyms and fitness centres.


Build muscle to burn energy

Building muscle mass isn’t just about building a six-pack, muscle tissue also uses up more energy than fat tissue. This means that if you increase your muscle mass and lose fat you’ll be burning more calories more efficiently - even while you’re at rest.


VegetablesMove more, eat wisely

There’s little point in going to the gym five times a week if you’re going to undo it by eating a poor diet and consuming more calories than you’ve managed to burn. When it comes to food choices and losing weight, it’s a case of eating less and eating wisely. Alongside upping your activity levels, eating regular meals, avoiding hidden calories in alcohol, shunning saturated fats, increasing your intake of vegetables and snacking wisely will help you to shed those excess pounds. 


Katie Hiscock is a fitness writer with diplomas in personal training and sports massage therapy. With an interest in sports nutrition, antenatal exercise and injury prevention, she works as a therapist for Brighton & Hove Albion.

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact  your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

Comments, questions and tips

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23rd Mar, 2016
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Cherry Smith
15th Aug, 2014
Great post! Some really useful points included. I recently found another helpful post which lists foods that aid natural weight loss as they require lots of chewing, fill you up, are low in calories, contain high amounts of water or air and improve satiety (to you and me that means keep us satisfied so that we don’t need to over eat, naturally :)) - it's definitely worth a read! http://magazine.siansplan.com/9-foods-that-are-great-for-natural-weight-loss/
Maggie's Oven's picture
Maggie's Oven
1st Aug, 2014
"Move more, eat wisely" ! These four words are the single, most powerful recipe for health!


26th May, 2014
Can you help me. I am 54 years old and am about 9st 9lb (give or take). Recently I have been trying to shed a few pounds, particularly around my tummy area, but do not seem to be having much luck even though I think I am eating healthily. I am not consuming a lot of bread or potatoes and I walk the dogs and go to the gym twice a week. What can I do to help the fat go around my tummy. Thank you.
Kerry Torrens's picture
Kerry Torrens
4th Jun, 2014
Hi there, thanks for your question. Keeping active is important, so congratulations on your exercise levels. Don’t forget that our hormone levels can play a big part in our weight and where we tend to carry it. Watch your stress levels because the hormone cortisol can influence weight gain. Are you getting enough sleep? Sleep is important for energy levels and for helping us manage our appetite – aim for 7 quality hours sleep each night.
Maggie's Oven's picture
Maggie's Oven
1st Aug, 2014
There are three important factors to get fit - 1.Discipline - eating properly and training properly; 2.Good rest - for the muscles to regenerate; 3.Genes - if your whole family is skinny or very overweighted it is likely for you to be the same. However, each of these factors is just one third and you may not be able to change your genes but the rest, you can change with hard work. I believe that we are what we eat so proper diet is fundamentally important. Here are some ideas for your diet which may come handy - http://community.epicurious.com/post/pov-healthy-eating-diet . It's not easy, but my personal experience shows that it works great. Eat more often, follow strict order in your meals and your weight will start to go back to normal (by normal i don't mean skinny but healthy)