Exercise will not make you lose weight…
Exercise plays a VERY small role in weight loss. Minor.
Let’s break it down.
During a 60 minute workout, the average calorie burn will range between 400 and 600 calories.
Work out three days a week?
That’s 1200 to 1800 calories burned per week.
Know about how many calories it takes to burn one pound of fat?
Three thousand, five hundred calories.
That means, theoretically, it would take you two weeks to burn ONE POUND of fat. And that’s only if you didn’t eat those extra calories back over the weekend.
It’s a dismal truth.
Many people grossly overestimate the number of calories burned during their workouts, and they sometimes feel like working out entitles them to a treat.
And that treat is sometimes around the same amount of calories as they burned during a week’s worth of exercise.
One of my favorite desserts, a brownie sundae, has about 1500 calories. A slice of chocolate cake? About 500-800 calories, minimum.
Going out for a couple margaritas? That’s about 1000 calories.
So let me adjust my original statement….
For most people, exercise, ALONE, will not make you lose weight.
Your eating habits MUST complement your exercise regimen because nutrition is the PRIMARY way to lose weight. Exercise is the SUPPLEMENT.
You can lose weight by only changing your eating habits and not working out. But it is rare to lose weight by exercising and not changing your eating habits.
Don’t worry… we’ll break this one down, too.
Your body burns calories all day just to keep your body alive. Regardless of your workouts, your body is always burning calories.
A 30-year-old woman, who’s 5’6 and weighs 200lbs, needs around 2000 calories to maintain her current weight.
What does she need to do to lose weight?
Eat less calories than it takes to maintain her weight.
The general recommendation is to eat 250-500 calories less than your maintenance level. This is a small enough deficit to allow a steady weight loss, making sure your body has the nutrients it requires to be healthy, and generally not losing lean mass in the process. Drop calories too low, and you will probably lose muscle along the way. Not good!
Getting back to the point, let’s name the lady Stephanie.
Stephanie has decided to lose weight and will now eat 1500 calories a day. This means she is eating 500 calories less PER DAY. Multiply 500 calories per day times 7 days per week, and you get 3500 calories less per week.
So, Stephanie has the potential to lose one pound that week from cutting her calories.
Calories burned during her workout will be a bonus. PLUS, exercise helps you strengthen and shape your body as you’re losing. It also helps you maintain your muscle mass to promote fat loss. Lastly, exercise is great for heart health, blood pressure, and reducing risk for chronic diseases.
Why do some people lose more than one pound a week if they only cut their calories by 500?
Because this formula is not cut and dry.
Our bodies are complex, and different foods elicit different responses in our bodies. Some foods actually make your body burn more calories when you eat them (hello, protein and spicy foods). And foods affect your hormones differently, which can affect fat storage (like high sugar intake) or fat loss.
I’m saying all of this just to show you that you will get WAY more bang for your buck by optimizing healthier eating habits than stressing over a workout.
Even though I’m a trainer, if I miss a workout, I don’t worry about it much. As a dietitian/nutritionist, I know that my health goals are more determined by the foods I put in my body than whether or not I get my workout in for the day.
Are you putting too much significance in your workouts for weight loss and not paying enough attention to your food intake?
Time to make that switch!
Both are super important for health, but food will always be the primary indicator of your health, weight, and quality of life.
P.S. Think all calories are equal? Think again!