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Why Do I Look Like I Don't Workout?

Does this sound familiar:

You bust your absolute a*s off in the gym.

You’re in there 6 days a week leaving your workouts sweaty, fatigued & your muscles shaking like jello.

But still, every morning you look in the mirror & you don’t see the definition you

Why do I look like I don't workout
Me in 2014 asking myself this exact question

thought you would.

You’re constantly asking yourself “Why Do I Look Like I Don’t Workout?”

What the heck is going on?!

There are a few different reasons why you look like you don’t train even when you’re working overtime in the gym. In this article I’m going to break down exactly why you don’t have the body composition you thought you would AND how to fix it. Let's dive in.

The first reason you look like you don’t workout:

You aren’t following a strength training program

Doing random workouts is fine if your overall goal is just to be healthy & get some movement in. But if you want to tone up, you’re going to need to build muscle & in order to build muscle you need to be following a strength training program.

Group fitness classes, swipe workouts from instagram & workouts you throw together in your notes app may be fun but they aren’t going to help you build muscle & tone up.

In order to look like you workout you need to follow a structured strength training program and it needs to be rooted in progressive overload.

What the heck does progressive overload mean?

It means that you add additional stimulus to your muscles over time to make the exercises more difficult. Ideally your program has you completing the same exercises for 4-8 weeks at a time. Over the course of those 4-8 weeks the exercises are getting more difficult by adding weight, reps or sets, playing with tempo, etc.

This is needed in order to build muscle & achieve the toned look that you’re searching for. If you’re wanting to change your body composition, stop doing random workouts & start following a strength training program.

Outside of not following a program another reason you look like you don’t workout is…

You’re forgetting about your nutrition

It’s true what they say…you can’t out train a bad diet. Many people(myself included before I was a coach) assume that working out is all you need and if you workout, you’ll achieve your dream body. This isn’t the case.

Strength training is going to help you build muscle but if you’re trying to lose weight, that all needs to come from your nutrition. You need to be in a calorie deficit and eating adequate protein.

What the heck is a calorie deficit? A calorie deficit means that you are eating less calories than your body is burning overall. It’s a requirement for fat loss. You can figure out your calorie deficit here.

Why do I look like I don't workout

This is THE most important part when it comes to weight loss. The calories you burn through exercise are a very small % of your total calories burned throughout the day. Because of this, it’s very hard to lose weight simply through your workouts. Burning enough calories through exercise to put you in a deficit while paying no mind to nutrition would require you to do hours of cardio a day.

Many of us don’t have time for that much cardio daily long term & if you can’t sustain that level of activity, the weight loss will be temporary.

Instead, in order to look like you workout you can’t JUST focus on your workouts. Nutrition & eating in a calorie deficit needs to be a core pillar of your weight loss plan.

You also need to ensure you’re eating adequate protein in order to build & maintain muscle while losing weight. If you’re not eating enough protein some of the weight you lose could be coming from muscle, not just fat.

Because of this, nutrition is a key part of making sure you look like you workout.

Another reason you look like you don’t workout…

You’re becoming a couch potato after your workout

Are you someone who crushes a 45min-1hr workout and thinks you’re “good” for the day? Maybe you have a desk job so you’re planted in front of a computer screen & at the end of the day you’ve gotten less than 5k steps? This could be why you look like you don’t workout.

Overall movement throughout the day matters. That 45 minute workout isn’t enough to cancel out the negative health benefits of sitting on your butt all day. Start trying to get more activity in throughout the day to help with both weight loss & your overall health.

The end goal should be 8k-12k steps a day but if that feels unmanageable right now…start small! Look at your daily average steps from last week(if you have an iphone you can find this in the health app). To start improving your steps, shoot for 1k more steps/day than your daily average last week.

This will get your overall movement up which can be a key component to losing(and maintaining!) weight loss.

The next reason you don’t look like you workout:

You aren’t allowing your muscles to actually recover

Because you look like you don’t workout you might be panicking and feel the need to work even harder. You’re doing 6 really intense workouts a week. Guess what? That’s not giving your muscles any opportunity to recover.

In order to build muscle, recovery time is important. Both for your muscles & for your nervous system. 6 really intense workouts/week isn’t allowing for proper recovery time.

Rather than adding more workouts, try scaling back. 3-4 strength training workouts a week with 1-3 lower intensity cardio days(like walking!0 mixed in is plenty.

Why do I look like I don't workout

Ideally you want to wait at least 48 hrs in between working the same muscle group. A sample workout split that allows for proper recovery is below:

Monday: Lower Body

Tuesday: Upper Body

Wednesday: Zone 2 cardio

Thursday: Lower Body

Friday: Upper Body

Saturday: Zone 2 cardio

Sunday: Rest

Give your muscles ample time to recover & watch your body composition change. By allowing your body to recover you’ll finally start to look like you workout.


Ahhhh the big building block that ties this all together. Consistency.

You can have the most perfect workout plan and the best nutrition protocol…but unless you’re following those 2 things consistently you’re going to keep spinning your wheels & not seeing results and you’ll continue wondering why you look like you don’t workout.

In order to really start to see results you need to be 80% or more consistent with hitting your calories, protein & your workouts in any given month. Anything less than that is enough to make it feel like you’re working your butt off without actually moving the needle on progress.

Start tracking your consistency. Everytime you hit your goals for the day, mark an X on the calendar. Everyday you don’t, leave it blank. At the end of a 30 day month you should only have about 5 blank spaces. If you have more than that, you’re not being consistent enough to hit your goals.

Why do I look like I don't workout

Tracking your consistency will give you a really clear picture as to why you do or don’t look like you workout.

The final reason you may look like you don’t workout….

Lack of patience

The news you might not want to hear: building muscle, losing weight & changing your body composition takes tiiiiiime. It’s going to take a lot longer than you think to really start seeing substantial changes in the mirror. Whatever time frame you have in mind right now for your dream body…double it. Heck..triple it.

If you’re serious about changing your body composition you need to be in this for the long haul & commit to slow & steady change. You won’t go from skinny fat to looking like a gym rat overnight.

Be patient & don’t get distracted by quick fixes.

By this point you should have a pretty solid understanding of why you don’t look like you workout. If you can follow the steps outlined in this article you’re going to go from skinny fat to toned AF!

If you’re feeling confused about where to start & want someone to take all of the guesswork out of this for you…apply for 1:1 online coaching!

I’d love to build you a strength training & nutrition program tailored to your individual goals that will leave you with #bodygoals.

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