Calories are a unit of measure that show the amount of energy in foods and drinks. The body requires a certain number of calories to function.
It will convert any excess calories into fat, increasing overall weight. The body can only lose weight when it is burning more calories than it takes in.
A person can lose weight through a calorie-restricted diet and regular physical activity. However, many factors can prevent weight loss.
1. Relying on exercise without addressing the diet
It is essential to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight. This involves the body burning more calories than it receives from the diet.
Exercise is an effective way to burn calories. But, to experience any significant weight loss, a person needs to combine exercise with consuming fewer calories.
Research suggests that, without sufficient changes to the diet, exercise alone is unlikely to lead to substantial weight loss for most people.
A person may be able to lose weight with extremely high levels of exercise, but even in these cases, shedding more than about 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms) is unlikely.
The body burns most of its calories through its basal metabolic rate. This refers to all the processes that sustain life, such as digesting food and breathing. Even brain activity burns calories.
Physical activity, which refers to all the body’s movements, takes up a much smaller amount of energy. Household chores and walking up a flight of stairs qualify as physical activity. Structured physical exercise burns an even smaller proportion of calories.
Without a sufficient reduction in the number of calories that a person consumes, it is very difficult to lose weight through exercise.
Research also suggests that people tend to eat more food when they exercise regularly. This can make it harder to maintain a calorie deficit and lose weight.
The best way to lose weight is by combining exercise with a calorie-restricted diet.
2. Following a fad diet
Many fad diets are based on no scientific evidence, and they can be counterproductive for weight loss.
The large amounts of money that people make by creating weight loss diets has led to an overwhelming variety. Many of these diets are highly restrictive and can cause health problems.
It is possible for some fad diets, such as the Atkins diet, to result in weight loss. But in most cases, this is due to the loss of water and muscle, rather than fat.
Also, these diets can be hard to maintain, and most people regain any weight lost shortly after stopping the diet.
The most effective and healthful diets have significant variety and are balanced. It is important to consume fewer calories, but this should not result from placing extreme restrictions on any major food groups.
However, it is beneficial to cut down on sugar and unhealthful fats, such as trans fats.
3. Enough exercise
Some researchers recommend exercising for 225–420 minutes per week for effective weight loss.
Regular exercise is essential for weight loss.
A study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise suggests at least 225 to 420 minutes of physical activity per week for effective weight loss. It is important to maintain this level over an extended period.
Engaging in different types of exercise can also affect weight loss.
The two main types of exercise are aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic, or endurance, exercises involve the continuous and repetitive use of large muscle groups, such as the arms and legs. Examples of aerobic exercises include jogging and cycling.
Anaerobic exercises involve short, intense bursts of activity. Examples of anaerobic exercise include heavy weight training or sprinting.
While aerobic exercises rely on a continuous supply of oxygen for energy, anaerobic exercises receive all their energy from glucose stored in muscles.
Both forms of exercise have several advantages for overall health, but there is debate over which is most useful for weight loss.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, aerobic exercise has a direct effect on weight loss, but anaerobic exercise alone does not. Anaerobic exercise can build muscle and burn fat but, because muscle weighs more than fat, there will be no reduction in weight.
However, anaerobic exercise can convert body fat into lean muscle. As muscle weighs more than fat, this likely explains the lack of weight loss from anaerobic exercise.
Anaerobic exercises, such as weight training, can also increase the body’s basal metabolic rate. This means that they can have a more lasting effect.
A combination of aerobic and anaerobic exercise is likely the best method of exercising for weight loss.
4. Sugary drinks
Consuming too many sugary drinks can prevent weight loss.
Research shows that the amount of sugar in the diet influences weight gain. But much of this could be specifically related to the consumption of sugary drinks.
It is easy to overlook drinks as a part of the diet. But many sugary drinks are high in calories.
Unlike various high-calorie foods, these drinks do not satisfy hunger and provide an insufficient amount of energy to the body. This makes it easier to consume too many sugary drinks without noticing.
Research suggests that sugary drinks could play a role in obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Limiting or eliminating the consumption of sugary drinks can help enhance weight loss.
Poor quality or insufficient sleep may affect weight loss.
Studies show that poor sleep can increase the risk of obesity and diabetes. It is also possible that a lack of sleep can disrupt the body’s ability to regulate hunger.
In a study involving 472 obese adults, the amount of time spent asleep was a significant predictor of the success of an intensive weight loss program. Stress was the other significant predictor.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults aged 18–65 should aim for 7–9 hours of sleep per night. Older adults should aim for 7–8 hours.
Drinking too much alcohol can prevent weight loss, as it is high in calories.
Drinking too much alcohol can prevent weight loss.
Alcohol is a high-calorie drink. For example, a 12-ounce beer contains around 153 calories, and a glass of red wine contains 125 calories, on average. Drinking four beers in an evening can increase the body’s daily calorie intake by 612 calories.
Evidence suggests that light amounts of drinking are unlikely to cause increases in body fat, but that heavier drinking will.
In most cases, it is not necessary to avoid alcohol entirely to lose weight; it is still possible to lose weight while having about two or three alcoholic drinks per week. It may help to stick with a type of alcohol that has fewer calories, such as vodka or whiskey.
Losing weight can be difficult. There are no real shortcuts, and it requires hard work and patience to see results.
The key to losing weight is to maintain a calorie deficit through healthful dieting, a mixture of aerobic and anaerobic exercise, and a good sleep pattern.
For people who drink alcohol or sugary beverages, it will help to cut back.