When embarking on a weight loss journey, it is a given that we start an exercise regime as well as changing the way we eat. But is exercise truly the best thing for weight loss? There is a lot of miss information out there, some for and some against exercise for weight loss.
Overall, we all know that exercise is good for us and helps to keep our body and heart healthy, as well as boosting our happy hormones and mental health. It’s recommended to stay healthy we should exercise for around 30 minutes at least 5 days a week, on top of our usual daily movement. That doesn’t have to be running or excessive hours training in the gym, it can be as simple as going for a daily walk. Anything that gets your blood pumping faster around your body. But how does exercise help to boost our weight loss?
Weight loss – the basics
At its simplest, to lose weight you need to burn more calories than you consume. Our bodies have their own natural daily burn, known as your BMR or Basal Metabolic Rate. Your BMR is the rate at which the body expends energy to maintain essential life functions while at complete rest, so that is your digestion, heart pumping and breathing etc. This is how many calories you would burn naturally without doing anything other than being alive.
In order to lose weight, you need to look at your TDEE or Total Daily Energy Expenditure. Your TDEE is the number of calories your body will burn daily by accounting for three major contributing factors: your basal metabolic rate (BMR), your activity level and the thermic effect of food metabolism. Your TDEE gives you the total amount of calories you would burn to maintain the same weight. Once your TDEE is calculated, to lose weight you need to create a deficit in the calories consumed and/or burned. So, if your TDEE is 2500 calories a day to maintain your weight, to lose if you reduced your calories consumed by 300 calories a day and then burn a further 200 with additional exercise over and above your base level, you are creating a deficit of 500 calories a day which will result in a weight loss of around ½ - 1lb a week.
Now you might be thinking, well if I drop it further then I could lose so much more each week. And you would be right, but it is a balance; all too often fad diets create a much larger calorie deficit to get bigger and quicker results, but they are unsustainable long-term resulting in a restrict/binge cycle. This is unhealthy and will ultimately result in even more weight gain when we give up, due to the muscle mass also lost on such low calories. This then slows down your metabolism, exacerbating the problem even further! Creating a smaller consistent calorie deficit, high in fibre and protein, is the key to continued and sustainable weight loss.
With this in mind, that means you don’t need to go mad with exercise but creating an additional calorie deficit by burning more calories is a great way to increase your weight loss efforts. This additional calorie burn could help you to lose while still living your life.
So, let’s have a look at some of those exercise myths…
1. Exercise makes you hungrier
While exercise may increase your appetite at first, resulting in you being hungrier, studies show that regular exercise has a moderating effect on appetite. Exercise promotes a state of neutral energy balance where calories eaten match calories burned therefore maintaining or reducing weight. Living a sedentary life has the opposite effect, changing our metabolism and increasing hunger over and above our energy needs.
2. Exercise can erase a bad diet
So, while exercise is important for our overall health, some people assume that exercising more can counteract a bad diet. Nice idea, but un unfortunately, not true. Exercise can help to boost the calories burnt, you cannot out-train a bad diet. As the saying goes ‘abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym!’. Your body needs good balanced nutrition to function well, to be healthy, and to create that all important calorie deficit; without it you will not have the fuel required to train effectively. You also need to exercise a lot to burn anywhere near the number of calories that would be consumed in a bad diet. Overeating by just 1000 calories a day, which could easily be done with just standard meals and a few unhealthy snacks or alcoholic drinks, would require you to exercise for a minimum of 90 minutes a day at a high intensity to burn that off.
As the saying goes ‘abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym!’.
3. Exercise can target fat
I am sure you have areas on your body that you would love to target specifically for fat loss. Perhaps your stomach is the last area to lose fat, or you have a little extra junk in the trunk that you would like to shave off? But is it even possible to target fat loss to certain areas through exercise? The answer is no.
To understand why spot reduction is not effective, it will be useful to understand the basics of how fat is burned. The fat in your cells is found in the form of triglycerides, which are stored fats that the body can use for energy. Before burning the fat cells for energy, triglycerides must be broken down into free fatty acids and glycerol, which are able to enter the bloodstream. During exercise, the free fatty acids and glycerol that are being used as fuel can come from anywhere in the body. The area that they come from will not correlate with the area of the body that you are working. So, when we train for fat loss, you are affecting the overall reduction in fat across your body and that sort of change takes time with good diet and regular exercise. In the past fitness experts talked about and promoted spot reduction exercises for those stubborn areas of fat that we like to focus on, such as working your ab muscles to lose belly fat or working the triceps to reduce fat on the back of the arms. While you can of course work these muscle areas in isolation to strengthen and tone, if you have fat covering those muscles you will not see the results you would like, until you work on overall fat loss.
4. Cardio is best for weight loss
For a long time, there was a focus on cardio for weight loss, but research and opinions have shifted, bringing weight training more heavily into the mix. Cardio has been shown to burn visceral fat more effectively, which is the fat that tends to collect around your abdomen and your vital organs and puts you at much higher risk for disease, but you would need to do at least 150 minutes as week to reach your fat loss goals. Weight training is more effective for overall fat burn and weight loss because the more muscle mass you have, the more efficient your body is at burning fat. To create the best environment for fat burning, a mix of cardio and weight training is the key and why my body transformation plans incorporate both. For the very best fat burning machine, completing your weights first and following it up with cardio will make your training efficient. This is because when you first start working out, your body uses its limited supply of carbohydrates first which is the best fuel for strength training. Then as those carbohydrate stores are depleted, your body will start hitting the fat stores for fuel and this is the best for aerobic exercise.
5. When you weight train, you won’t lose weight as you will be replacing fat with muscle which is heavier
Many people fear starting any kind of exercise regime, especially weight training due to the thought that they will be replacing fat with muscle and that muscle is heavier, resulting the scales not moving or even going up. However, muscle is not heavier than fat. 1lb of muscle weighs the same as 1lb of fat, but the difference is in volume. Fat has a larger volume, so a 1lb of fat will be visibly larger and take up more space in your body. Picture traditional weighting scales with a pound of feathers on one side and a pound of flour on the other side. Both the same weight, but definitely not the same volume! Building muscle, even if your weight doesn’t move, will mean that you have a smaller, leaner, and more toned physique and still be dropping down the clothing sizes.
Muscle is not heavier than fat. 1lb of muscle weighs the same as 1lb of fat, but the difference is in volume.
6. Weight training will bulk you out
Women especially have a fear of weight training, worried that using weights will bulk them out when what they want to achieve is a lean body. This simply isn’t true as women do not have enough testosterone to achieve such large muscle gains as men. This would require hours of intense training every day along with a very strict nutrition plan to get anywhere near a bulked-up look.
Perceptions have fortunately been changing over the past few years with the dawn of the fitness influencer and more women stepping into the weight training space and owning it. The research says that weight training and resistance is an important part of weight loss, maintenance, and body transformation. Building muscle of course has an impact on your physical appearance and overall strength, but it also makes a big impact on your ability to burn fat and then stay lean. Muscle cells require far more energy to contract and relax than fat cells, so by their very nature they will help to increase the calories burned and your overall metabolism. Someone with a high muscle mass percentage will naturally have a higher BMR than someone with a higher body fat percentage. Therefore, a higher muscle mass will also break down fat cells much faster.
Let me put the perfect exercise and nutrition plan together for you
In conclusion, by busting some of these exercise and weight loss myths, I think it is clear that exercise is an excellent tool to support and boost your weight loss efforts. When combined with a balanced nutritious diet, exercise will help you to burn more fat as well as strengthen and tone your body creating a lean physic rather than the “skinny fat” composition. If you would like support and structure with your health and fitness goals, then take a look at my Body Transformation Plans which have been put together to guide you in creating the perfect nutritionally balanced diet. Choose from one of my five workout programmes, tailored to your needs. Combining cardio and weight training to help you reach your fat loss goals quicker and to see that full body transformation which you are completely capable of achieving!
If you would like some help about selecting which programme is best for you then please email email@example.com or send me a message on the Jen The Health Coach Facebook Page and I can guide you towards the perfect plan for you.