How Exercise Can Cause You To Gain Weight

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Are you exercising too much?

Being in the health and wellness world for over 17 years, I have seen my fair share of exercise advice — push harder, do this new program, slow it down, lift heavier — the advice goes on and on.

Yet, proposing the question of how much is too much is rarely asked or even encouraged. It seems that the fitness industry often speaks to and caters those that are in need of that extra push. That extra encouragement. That little kick you might need to move your body and better your physical health.

But what about those fitness enthusiasts that are regularly pushing themselves? Or, those in love with high intensity competition? What about those who are already living stressful lives and want to incorporate the right kind of exercise?

They are a special breed when it comes to exercise, at least exercising the right way for the best results.

It is common knowledge that exercise is one of the healthiest forms of self-care that we can indulge in. Strength training helps to build muscle and cardiovascular exercise helps to keep your heart healthy. But, if you do too much of either of these, a normally healthy habit can begin to break the body down and, inversely, cause you to be weak and overly stressed. It doesn’t stop there…

If you live a lifestyle that is high in stress, this is going to compound and add to the extra stress placed on your body from regular intense exercise. It doesn’t matter if your stress is related to  work, family, mental health, or emotional turmoil — it all equates to extra stress in the body.

How do you know if the exercise you are doing is placing too much extra stress on your body? It is not always so easy to spot, but there are a few signs that do begin to present. When your body can no longer take the over-exercising, signs of overtraining typically creep in. Overtraining can signal the body to start burning muscle for fuel and store more fat, resulting in some weight gain.

Overtraining shows up as —

  • Persistent muscle soreness
  • Elevated resting heart rate
  • Increased susceptibility to infections
  • Increased incidence of injuries
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Loss of motivation
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased appetite
  • Muscle loss
  • Increased weakness

Probably not what you are hoping for with your exercise plan!

How Over-Exercising Impacts The Body

Over-exercising places excessive stress on the body. With this onset, your hormone levels begin to change — especially testosterone and cortisol (yes, women have testosterone too!).

Testosterone is important to help build lean muscle, increase bone density, and keep your heart and blood healthy. Having healthy, balanced, levels of testosterone are super important for gaining the results you want in your workouts. When excessive stress is placed on the body, cortisol levels increase and steal from your testosterone, throwing off your healthy hormonal ratios.

With the body’s delicate hormonal balance upset, it begins to signal to the body to burn muscle instead of fat. As a result, you may notice that the lifting of your usual amount of weights, running your usual distances, and performing the same type of exercises may be much more difficult than easy.

If cortisol levels rise too high and stay elevated for too long, the adrenal glands may become imbalanced and cortisol levels drop below normal. This is when weight gain occurs.

Your body has an amazing capacity to adapt, which is what makes your body so resilient.  If you keep demanding too much from your body, without the necessary rest and recovery, it will start to compromise and compensate in an effort to keep functioning.  Your stubborn body fat —especially belly fat — is just one of the ways in which your body compensates when exposed to too many stressors.

What You Can Do

Here is where I want to emphasis the importance of looking at the stress in your everyday life. Not every day will be stress-free — every day shouldn’t be — but it is about the flow of how stress enters, exits, and dances around the moments in your day. When you step back and look at the big picture, this will help guide you in the right kind of and right amount of exercise for you and your lifestyle in this moment of your life.

Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest), how much stress do I realistically have at work, at home, and in my personal life? List out the stressors if this helps you see the big picture more clearly.
  • How am I feeling right now (i.e., tired, sore, heavy, sad, stressed, light, happy, so-so)?
  • Would pushing harder make me feel better or worse? Would slowing down make me feel better or worse?
  • Can I give my body what it really needs?

You may be quite surprised to find out how much stress you unknowingly deal with on a daily basis. When you can honestly say how much “daily stress” you are experiencing, then you can step back and look at your exercise regimen. If your “daily stress” is high, then it might be counterintuitive to hop on the elliptical trainer for an hour. It is common that people who lead a more stressful lifestyle tend to gravitate towards longer cardio as a way to deal with stress — the inner push is already in their nature. Instead, try yoga or a stretching class to emphasis stress-relieving and add gentle movement that your body is craving.

If this sounds like you and you believe you are over-exercising, here are some places you could begin:

  1. Add in more energy balancing practices. Perform low to moderate amounts of exercise and save some time to do daily stress relieving practices, such as meditation, visualization, deep breathing, and journaling. You could even sign up for a Reiki session or other energy work to help you get realigned. This allows your adrenal gland hormones to begin balancing and it helps to stabilize your blood sugar, both important for properly functioning adrenals.
  2. Stop doing long cardio sessions. If you’re doing long cardio workouts, you’re only adding to the problem.  Long cardio eats away at your lean muscle mass which is essential for increasing your metabolism to burn more calories.  And it dramatically increases your appetite making you more susceptible to unnecessary snacking and over eating. Not to mention that it can create imbalance in your blood sugar, opening you up to more food cravings and inflammation in the body. Instead of long cardio, try doing short, high intensity workouts (i.e., HIIT programs).  These workouts are much more effective at promoting fat burning hormones that target your stubborn fat. It is important to mention that if you are already dealing with more severe over-training symptoms or adrenal issues, high intensity workouts may still be too aggressive for you at this time.
  3. Change the way you lift weights. Lift heavier weights at lower repetitions instead of lower weights for higher repetitions. Lifting heavier weights has been linked to increasing testosterone levels, therefore, helping to keep the hormone balance more, well, balanced. It will also help to increase lean muscle mass and increase your overall metabolism.
  4. Make sure that you are getting adequate rest. Recovery and rest are often more important than exercising.  If you’re feeling sluggish or drained of energy, do an active recovery such as an easy walk, hike, or a leisurely bike ride. If you’re really tired, take the day off! It’s during periods of rest that your body does most of the fat burning, so don’t short change yourself.  Proper rest and recovery means you’re enabling your body to burn more fat.
  5. Feed your body (the right way). The foods we eat can place large amounts of stress on the body. A diet full of sugar, processed carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats can place a significant amount of stress on the body and increase systemic inflammation in the body. Eat a well-balanced nutrition plan of whole foods that contain plenty of vegetables, lean proteins, high quality carbohydrates, healthy fats, and a few fruits. Plenty of vegetables and colorful fruits are also high in anti-oxidants (which helps to fight the negative effects of stress on the body)! Limit your alcohol and sugar because as the body become stressed, you crave both of these more!

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The Complex Relationship Between Sleep and Weight

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This blog is guest written by Sheila Johnson at https://www.wellsheila.net .

Are you struggling with stubborn body fat while suffering from insomnia? Or perhaps you’ve gained a few pounds and aren’t sleeping as well as you used to. It’s easy to write these connections off as coincidence, but there’s a complex relationship between weight and sleep. Not only does your weight affect how well you sleep, but sleep also impacts your ability to maintain a healthy weight. Wild Flowers Grow invites you to read on if you’re ready to get better sleep and lose weight. 

How Weight Affects Sleep (and Vice Versa)

Excess weight is linked to sleep disorders

Being overweight or obese is a major risk factor for sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that causes the airway to become obstructed during sleep. Because sleep apnea reduces sleep quality, it can lead to further weight gain due to sleep quality’s impact on appetite, exercise, and metabolism.

Poor sleep makes you hungrier

Sleep deprivation causes the body to release more appetite-stimulating hormones and suppresses leptin, a hormone that tells your brain when you’re full. If that’s not bad enough, insomniacs are also more likely to reach for high-fat, high-sugar, and high-calorie foods.

Poor sleep makes it harder to exercise

People are less likely to exercise when sleep deprived. Even if you work up the will to hit the gym, workouts tend to be shorter and less intense when you’re not well-rested.

Poor sleep leads to weight gain

There’s also research that suggests poor sleep lowers resting metabolism and increases insulin resistance, two things that make it even harder to lose weight.

These facts are scary, but you can break the cycle of insomnia and weight gain.

How to Sleep Better with Excess Weight

Before you get serious about losing weight, you need to address your poor sleep quality. These are some things you can do to sleep better when you’re carrying extra weight:

Get a supportive mattress

If you’ve gained weight, your old mattress might not be as supportive as it used to be. Many heavier individuals find foam mattresses don’t provide enough support to align their spine, which can lead to back pain and difficulty sleeping. If you’re on the heavier side and tend to toss and turn most nights, switching to a larger size innerspring mattress for more support could be the perfect solution to help you achieve better sleep.

Avoid eating and drinking before bed

Overweight people are more likely to experience acid reflux. To reduce nighttime heartburn, stop eating and drinking three hours before bed. If you’re a side sleeper, sleep on your left side.

Exercise more

Exercise is proven to improve sleep. Vigorous aerobic exercise like running or HIIT is best for sleep, but even moderate-intensity exercise makes a difference. However, avoid intense exercise right before bed. If you’re looking for a nighttime workout, try a mindful yoga routine instead. Better yet, making yoga a regular activity can enhance your ability to feel more relaxed since it’s a great stress reducer. If you need some extra motivation, use discounts to splurge on some new activewear from stores like Nike or Finish Line. 

Talk to your doctor

Sleep apnea and snoring may go away with weight loss, but in the meantime, it’s important to address sleep disorders that leave you waking up groggy. Talk to your doctor about sleep apnea. You may be prescribed a sleep study and a PAP machine.

Weight Loss Tips for Better Sleep (and Health!)

Now that you’re sleeping better, it’s easier to conquer your weight loss goals. There are tons of weight loss tips out there, but these simple tips are at the core of any weight loss plan:

Eat filling foods

Controlling your appetite will be a challenge at first, so avoid empty calories and instead, focus on filling foods like proteins, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates.

Find exercise you enjoy

Consistency is the most important thing when it comes to exercise, so find something you can commit to. Again, yoga is fantastic when you’re starting a weight loss journey because it’s low-impact, beginner-friendly, and adaptable to every body.

Focus on the dos, not the don’ts

It’s common to approach weight loss by taking things away — junk food, calories, lazy nights on the sofa. Instead of focusing on what’s off-limits, work on building healthy behaviors. Planning your meals, eating more vegetables, and getting active are positive goals that build you up.

It’s hard to find the motivation to get healthy when you’re not sleeping well. Unfortunately, poor lifestyle habits also make it harder to catch quality rest. If you’re stuck in the cycle of sleep loss and weight gain, use these tips to get your sleep and your health back on track.

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This blog is written by Sheila Johnson at https://www.wellsheila.net . For more info and to contact her directly, head over to her website and see what she has to offer! 

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