We’re 2 months down in the New Year! How’s the workouts going? While our gym is doing a Better Body Challenge (our version of The Biggest Loser), I’m hearing some frustrations from time to time from individuals who I know are working out super intense and claiming (I’m assuming it’s true) that they are eating well, eating less, cutting carbs, sugar, red meat, etc…So, why are some of these individuals struggling? Our bodies are so complex and unique. One formula is not a simple fix for every person.
Calories in Versus Calories out
I discuss this concept often with people. Let me make it clear, however, that although there is some truth to it (if you consume 3000 calories of food but only burned 1500, weight gain is likely to occur), it’s not the only formula that is causing weight loss or weight gain. What is a calorie? “1 calorie is the amount of energy required to increase the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius.” “Energy is the capacity of a system to do work.” In this case the system is the body. One factor of calories in versus calories out that I do not agree with is that it indicates that all calories are created equal. That no matter what food the calorie comes from, it’s just a calorie. It’s important to note that different foods (and the calories in these foods) have a different effect on how they are absorbed metabolically in our body. A 500-calorie cupcake is going to react to your body much differently than a 500-calorie piece of chicken. The sugary treat (containing fructose and glucose) will be absorbed by the liver already full of glycogen, and likely will turn to fat. The chicken (protein) calories will be spent digesting and utilized building muscle which is our highest metabolic tissue.
The fat burning zone
Another concept that is controversial. It does have some truth to it for sure, but isn’t as simple as just getting in the zone and you’ll lose weight. As quoted by Rachel Cosgrove, CSCS, “the body burns a greater percentage of fat at lower intensities than at higher intensities. At lower intensities, the body may burn 50 percent of the calories from fat, while at higher intensities it may only burn 35 percent. But at higher intensities you burn way more total calories—and more fat calories overall—than you do at lower intensities”. Too much aerobic exercise without resistance training will also break down muscle. Muscle, again, is a high metabolic tissue. If we do nothing to maintain or build our muscle and only choose high aerobic exercise, our muscle will break down and fat burning will slow down.
Here’s that word “balance” again
If weight loss, or better, fat loss was as simple as cutting a few calories and hopping on the treadmill, we would all do it. This is not the case. Again, our bodies are unique to us. So much depends on genetic, our health, our age…there is not one single program that is going to work for each of us. Are there “guidelines” that help? Yes, of course. It will help to burn more calories that you consume, it will help to make sure your heart rate is in the “fat burning” zone. Beyond that, for your diet, it is important that you listen to your body and know how foods effect it. Genetics and health, again, play a huge part in this. Two people who eat the same diet, same portions and workout the same will most likely have much different results. One may see very little weight loss while the other may experience a good amount of weight loss.
Your balance can be achieved! It requires patience, determination and commitment. As we’ve heard before, “you didn’t gain all that weight in a day”, you’re certainly not going to lose it that quick either.
- Eat a balanced diet of healthy, low fat foods:
- Incorporate lean proteins, seasonal vegetables and fruits, and whole grains.
- Avoid processed, sugary foods.
- Keep the carbs at bay late at night-in the evening our body is slowing down, preparing for rest. Heavy carbs in the late evening will be absorbed by the body and not appropriately burned. I often recommend having protein and vegetables for dinner and avoid the complex carbs.
- Stop eating at least 2 hours prior to sleep. At rest, our bodies are burning calories but not in the way it does when we are active resulting in much of these calories turning to and story as fat.
- Increase your water intake! Water flushes out our bodies, increases metabolism and often when we think we are hungry, we are thirsty!
- Follow a balanced workout routine (as discussed many times before):
- Even if you are preparing for a marathon, resistance and flexibility training are super important to keep joints lubricated and avoiding injury.
- Incorporate 2-3 days of resistance (weight) training during the week. I recommend always warming up first (10 minutes on the stationary bike or elliptical)
- Adjust your cardio from long, slow to short, fast intensities. Using running as an example, one cardio day take a long, steady (still need to get your heart rate up to burn fat) run and the next cardio day, short, fast intervals. This can apply to any types of cardio!
Again, weight loss is not a one-size-fits-all deal! We are all different and will respond to weight loss programs differently. It is not an overnight process. It takes dedication and, something I promote a lot: Accountability–OWN IT! We may think we eat very little, but it’s what we are eating we need to own! We may think we are working out a lot, but it’s the consistency and intensity we need to own! And, it takes time! Be patient and loving with yourself and never compare to others, this is your “unique” journey! “Patience is bitter, but it’s fruit is sweet” ~ Aristotle