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...

Man stretching

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 effect

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
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.

Activity 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.

Shun the scales

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.

Move more, eat wisely

Fruit and vegetables
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. 

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.”

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.

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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John Leyo's picture
John Leyo
30th Nov, 2019
Very helpful article Here are Top 10 Foods That Help Lose Belly Fat: http://bit.ly/2L7zza6
23rd Apr, 2015
Great article. Having a proper food to eat is a very good way to our healthy lifestyle. It is good also to maintain our weight. Thank you for this article. I learn something new today about this topic. Targeted Twitter Followers
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!
jessybrain's picture
5th Jun, 2014
Everybody loves to have weight loss tips. They are little reminders of what we should and should not do. Tips are like a good friend, always nudging you to do the right thing. First you need set up your mind you wanna lose your weight, then understand what actually you want, draw your plan and finally perform it. However, engage in strength training exercises then combine cardio and strength training. http://www.ihomeremedy.net/7-natural-ways-to-shed-off-weight/
jeanhaynes's picture
19th Feb, 2014
I have an underactive thyroid and am on a permanent low fat low calorie diet but can not move me excess weight even though I go to the gym regularly. Can you suggest some foods that will help to boost the rate of my metabolism. Thank you
Kerry Torrens's picture
Kerry Torrens
4th Jun, 2014
Hi there, thanks for your question. When you are on a weight loss diet it’s important to ensure you are including all the nutrients your thyroid needs – these include minerals like selenium – just a couple of brazil nuts a day will supply your daily requirements, iodine from seafood and fish as well as the healthy omega 3 oils from fatty fish like salmon. There are some foods that are thought to boost metabolism, these “thermogenic” foods include protein foods like lean meat and fish and certain spices like chilli peppers and ginger.
20th Mar, 2014
Hi Jean, An under-active thyroid or hypothyroidism can cause your metabolic rate too slow down. Eating regular SMALL meals or snacks every 3-4hours can speed up your metabolism because your body is constantly working to try break down the food. Try porridge oats with a low fat greek style yogurt for breakfast its good for slow release of energy and tastes pretty good. Try a hand full of mixed nuts (unsalted) and seeds as a snack as these take a while to break down in your system. For dinner maybe chicken stir fry with vegetables and Wholegrain rice. Try eat more veg with meals as these contain more essential vitamins and nutrients your body needs. You should always have more veg than most on your and always start your meal by eating these first. Giving your hypothyroidism you probably suffer from tiredness a lot and probably drink fizzy drinks / tea / coffee for energy? just drink Loads of water instead. Vit B helps release the energy in your body so you could take supplements and Vit k from your vegetables helps with this too. And always always always exercise.... " Even if you walk around your estate a few times, your still lapin everybody on the couch " Hope some of this helps and good luck :D
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)