No matter how often you’re heard that you can’t out train a poor diet, isn’t it such a natural inclination to think “I’ll just have this tiny little sliver of dessert” Definitely-NOT-going-back-for-seconds-and-100%-doing-an-extra-super-long-walk-tomorrow!
Or “Surely some banana bread with my skim cap after back to back pump and body attack classes is ok?” Zero-chance-it-will-turn-into-an-addictive-after-gym-carb-fix-I-MUST-have!
Sometimes it helps to see the numbers to really make it clear what a painful, frustratingly SLOW battle it is to exercise your way to your best body. Actually that makes it even sound like a possibility.
To be clear, unless your food is already amazing, incorporating exercise alone is never going to work for a weight loss goal.
Let’s work with this scenario to paint the picture. You commit to ‘3’ 45 minute sessions a week for 10 weeks. High intensity metabolic resistance style training. You lift weights circuit style with the added bonus of really getting your heart rate up for a cardio effect.
This is going to give you a much better result than ‘3’ sessions on the cross-trainer. Or even ‘3’ 45 minutes runs. (I cover why here: Struggling To Stay Afloat With Reactive Cardio It’s Time To Get Proactive With Weights)
It’s an awesome way to train.
HOWEVER there are still some common pitfalls to consider:
=> Over a ten week period – how many of those sessions do you actually make?
AND, of those you make, for how many are you able to work at a high intensity. To really give your best effort? Yes, just turning up counts – so far are creating that positive habit. However turning up and plodding through isn’t doing you any favours if you’re trying to out-train that burger and ‘a couple’ of chips last night.
=> Are you tracking your food to check your consumption isn’t sneaking up to cope with the extra exercise?
This happens so easily. It leads to the heart-breaking fitter and fatter.
=> Perhaps you’d like to see faster results… and you up the exercise anti? Training 5 or 6 days or even every day? Now I train 6 days and it works for me – however the vital consideration is “What works for YOU?”
1. Is it sustainable?
2. Is it sustainable without extra low value food or even extra quality yet high carb food?
By low value I mean processed, fake food… anything you buy in a packet with more than a couple of ingredients. ONE ingredient food is always best.
3. Do you see it as a privilege to have the time and health to exercise this regularly? Or is it a boring, tedious ‘necessary evil’ that you’ll ditch at the hint of a better option?
Finding the positive in exercise is the only way you’ll stick with it long term.
=> When you go on holiday? Travel for business? Move house? Change job? …can you keep up that exercise routine? If you’re just hanging on in there for dear life now – what happens when life really gets crazy?
Here are those numbers I alluded to earlier. Let’s say you eat 3 meals + 2 snacks/drinks/ alcohol a day then that’s 35 times a week what you eat is deciding how your body looks and performs. Versus say exercise 3 times a week. Even exercising every single day does not stack up next to the number of times you eat in a day.
Food Is It.
If you’re looking to lose a mere pound a week then that’s 500 calories A DAY you need to burn via moving more or slash via eating better. For someone my size that’s over an hour a day jogging. Or 2 hours walking. It’s 60 minutes working at the highest possible intensity with my weights – no 90 second rest intervals between sets!!!
Alternatively 500 calories is:
85 gm of roasted nuts.
2 medium slices of pizza.
1 medium serve of french fries with tomato sauce.
4-5 glass’s of wine or beer.
1 cup of chocolate ice cream.
That’s 500 calories EACH and 2,500 total.
So, you could slog your guts out 5 hours a week running or super intensely training with weights. Or walk for 10 hours! And then wipe that calorie deficit (Yes, that one you needed to lose ONE pound) in one foul sweep with a single meal such as the one above.
WOW. That’s disheartening right?
And that is why I recommend NEVER to weigh food and exercise up against each other. The mindset of “if I eat this then I have to train for this long” is no fun. It’s restrictive.
It puts the focus on “what can I get away with?” with your food
and “what’s my punishment?” with your exercise.
If this is a mindset shift for you my effective eating and exercising strategies will help.
=> the toughest way to lose weight is via restrictive calorie counting of crap-o-la (and high caloric density) food. You get to eat next to nothing. And it has close to zero micronutrient value so your body plagues you with cravings for nutrients… no, not more sugar and fat, your body is craving the whole food it’s missing not more dead food.
=> the easiest way to lose weight is to swap the vast majority of the processed food you eat for natural, satisfying, one ingredient food. Start with fibrous veg to keep you feeling full and allow for large quantities with low caloric density. You never need to even measure these FREE fibrous veg. You can eat your fill. Amp up your veg base with your fav lean protein and also some good fats to satisfy you.
For more info on building your best meal I’ve got your covered here: How To Dump Measuring To Naturally Lose Weight.
=> love some support on your weight loss journey or perhaps you’re looking to be a positive influence to those closest to you? If you’ve tried it before you’ll know you will never be able to force another person to come walking with you or join a gym.
My dad tried this with me when I was 18 and he was gym obsessed. I wasn’t having a bar of it. Then at around 19 (!) I became gym obsessed all of my own accord. Nutrition is different. Simply by bringing better food in the home, by cooking better meals and by leading by example it’s very likely your loved ones will see some results without consciously trying to shed some weight. I hear this all too regularly from my lady clients whose husbands start ‘fading away’ without effort! That’s a whole other post though.
=> finally, what about when life jumps in the way of your weight loss goal via injury or the flu? Although I’m a fan of training around injuries and even exercising at a lower intensity if you’re unwell (if you’re well enough to work or go out to dinner you’re well enough to train!)… I know that these situations do affect at the very least duration and intensity and more often they stop exercise cold in it’s tracks. Again, nutrition is different. Sickness and injury do not need comfort food. This is a time when your body is stressed and it needs – it deserves – the best quality food to help it heal. What this means is that you can continue to lose weight via nutrition alone even if you are unable to exercise.
SUPER Best Of The Best Approach?
I know you saw this one coming – a combination:
Food to support your Exercise. And,
Exercise to support your Food.
You see it’s a catch-22:
You eat poorly => you have low energy, sleep poorly, put on weight => you crave the easiest quick fix sugary fatty processed food => the lack of micronutrients in this food and abundance of additives further stuffs with your hormones (tech talk!) and leads you to believe you’re craving more crap food => you do mindless moderate intensity cardio as you’re feeling heavy and bloated And lethargic AND don’t have the energy for anything else => you crave carbs over and above the amount of energy you just expanded => YOU EAT POORLY… 🙁
You fuel your body with quality, micronutrient laden, satisfying, fibrous veg, lean protein and good fats => you have heaps of energy, sleep well and start to lose weight => you are inspired to continue fueling your body with the best food you can give it => the energy this food gives you makes it easy to train hard and lifting weights makes you crave protein – the fuel for your sexy lean muscle => YOU EAT QUALITY… 🙂
If this is sounding counter-intuitive. I Hear You!!! I subscribed to super-low-fat (i.e. crazy-high-carb) and slogged away at 60minutes machine cardio 6 days a week for years.
I was hesitant to let go of the cardio – even though I Hated it – I felt like I was “just hanging on in there at ‘not too far off’ my goal body shape.”
I eventually refined my approach one step at a time. At my own pace. As I could manage it. And that’s exactly what I recommend to you. A little less fake food here… a little more one ingredient food there. A bit less cardio and a bit more weights.
Repeat. And repeat again. And again. AND again, until you realize like me that your old ‘not too far off’ your goal body shape was actually miles off because the new body and new energy you’ve created is crazy-outta-control in the best way.