Do you need to exercise to lose weight?
I've already touched on this topic but thought I would touch on it again. One of the most common things I get asked is to lose weight don't I need to be busting my ass at the gym? And the short answer is "No, you don't, but yes you do". - Ok blog over.
Ha jokes - not quite so fast ... Sorry if you were excited that I just gave you permission to skip the gym but don't give up that membership just yet.
Let me explain.
So without going into too much chemistry and biochemisty, to lose weight you need to be burning more calories than you are consuming - that's a no brainer - everyone by now knows this. Yes there are lots of other pieces to the puzzle that need to be considered (hormonal reasons, etc) and yes all calories are not created equal but essentially calories in need to be less than calories expended. One gram of carbs and one gram of protein are both equivalent to 4 calories, one gram of fat is 9 calories and one gram of alcohol is 7 calories. So you also need to be careful what your calories are made up of so it's not just as simple as eating 1200 calories and you'll lose weight. 1200 calories consisting of fried food and McDonalds is going to look a lot different to 1200 calories of fruit and veggies and going to affect your body a lot differently. But that is getting slightly off track.
So how do you figure out your Daily Energy Expenditure (DEE) or the amount of calories your body burns per day. The amount of calories your body expends per day consists 70% from your Basal or Resting Metabolic Rate (BMR or RMR) - this is the amount of calories you are burning from your body keeping you alive, just breathing, thinking, your lungs and heart working. 20% comes from physical activity. Think of that - only around 20%, so really you're burning a lot more from just being alive! and then 10% comes from the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) (the breaking down of food when you eat).
Ok, so now you ask, what about those people that do ultra marathons, or triathalons or compete in sports for hours on end each day, surely more than 20% of their energy per day comes from exercise. Good question. And that, my friends, is where the physical activity comes into it. Doing exercise such as weights, running, rowing, cycling, anything getting you moving, increases not only the amount of calories you burn from physical activity, BUT also as you get stronger, fitter and muscle mass increases, your Basal Metabolic Rate gets higher. So the amount of calories you burn at rest increases (otherwise known as your metabolism increasing). Now you can understand why people with fast metabolisms burn more calories per day. So the percentages always stays the same - approx 70, 20,10 - it's just the amount of calories you burn from each gets higher. Hello burning more calories while i'm sitting down watching Suits sounds good to me.
Exercise can also help you to continue burn calories for long after your session is over. Depending on the type of training, you can still be burning calories from that session up to 24 hours after. The more intense the exercise, the more oxygen your body needs to consume afterwards to recover and restore a state of balance, called EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) or more informally known as after-burn. In one study, after doing a high intense cycle class for 45 minutes, the participants burnt roughly 190 - 200 calories more in the 14 hours after exercise than on the days that they didn't exercise. That is not the calories burnt during the session, that is just the after burn calories.
Ok so then why did I bother to study Nutrition if it seems like exercise is the be all and end all for weight loss and health - And here is the clincher - because it's not!
And that is what I teach my clients - that good nutrition and exercise go hand in hand to help you get fitter, healthier and stronger. You really can't do one without the other.
You are going to be doing absolutely nothing for yourself or your figure if you workout and then go and stuff yourself with chocolate and burgers after. I see that so often people saying, i'm working so hard in the gym but i'm not losing weight. I then delve deeper into what they eat and that's where the answers lie. They think that just because they they went to the gym for 45 minutes, the rest of the day is a free for all and they can eat what they like and they do. Relatively put, during a session you are not going to be burning that many calories realistically, if you're lucky around 300 - 500 or so depending on how long and intense the sessions are. Then gorging on a 700 calorie cake later that day is going to undo all that work plus some. I am all about moderation and not cutting anything from your diet, cheesecake is my favourite food (and not some vegan raw cheesecake, the full fat dairy cheesecake) but moderation means not everyday and knowing when you've overindulged and need to cut back slightly.
In the weight loss equation, exercise should be about making you fitter, healthier and stronger. It should not be about the calories burnt per session. Exercise not only helps boost your mood and gets you in a better mind set for the day, increases your energy, helps regulate your sleep and can help fight depression, but it can give you a sense of accomplishment. I know for me doing a full push up felt like such a bigger accomplishment than losing 20kg - true story! Exercise can also help motivate you to eat healthier. I know on the days when I exercise I am much less likely to have chocolate or cake as I'm feeling in such a good, healthy mood so don't want to disrupt that.
Don't be scared when I talk about exercise or the gym, it should not be some big scary thing. When I say no you don't need to be busting your ass in the gym, getting out and going for a walk, go for a hike, going for a swim, playing tennis. Do something you love to get your body moving and you will see results.
And surely you've all heard of the "Abs are made in the kitchen" saying - and it's true, they are made in the kitchen - let me explain. So let's get one thing straight - everyone has "Abs". They are 4 muscles, Rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus, inernal obliques and external obliques. Everyone has those 4 muscles so even if you can't see them, congratulations, you have abs! If you didn't have abs you would not be able to stand up straight. There is just a layer of fat underneath your skin that covers your abs so you are unable to see them. So people with a visible 6 pack just have a smaller amount of fat covering them. Crunches and sit ups and ab exercises are great for strengthening and toning your abs and are extremely important post natally to help put separated abs back together. BUT no matter how many crunches per day you do, if you still have that layer of fat you will not see your abs.
And how do you lose that layer of fat (and lose fat and weight everywhere as you can't spot reduce I hate to say) - by not eating processed, sugar laden packaged food and instead swapping it for fresh fruit and veggies. So in other words by cleaning up your diet and eating healthy.
So can you now see that exercise and good nutrition literally go hand in hand to help you lose weight. You exercise to help build lean muscle, get fitter, stronger, feel better and get more energy. You conversely eat better to also help give you energy and feel better and to fuel your training sessions and in turn as a consequence of doing both these things - oh would you look at that - WEIGHT LOSS!!!!