‘I want to get fit and lose weight’
This is a phrase we band about freely, to explain our health and fitness goals. But what does it really mean? What is your real goal?
Once we actually look in detail at what that really means, and accept how we actually get there, we will definitely start to see success.
We often hear people telling us that they are hoping for a good loss on the scales, because they have done a ton of exercise the previous week. To us, this suggests that they see exercise as the key to success on the scales.
Getting fit and losing weight are two very separate things, and we will go on to explain this later in the article, but first ask yourself, do you see the two things as mutually exclusive? Or is getting fit and losing weight actually one and the same thing to you?
The thing is, if you feel like you are putting lots of effort into your workouts, exercising more than you ever have done, but you aren’t seeing the change on the scales, then the reason may be that you need to start viewing ‘getting fit’ and ‘losing weight’ as two separate goals. Whilst it is hard to get your head round this fact, it is so important that you do so, let us be clear on this: EXERCISE ALONE WILL NOT MAKE YOU LOSE WEIGHT.
Losing weight is about energy balance, and more importantly, getting an energy deficit. You need to burn more energy than you put in your body.
If you are eating 3-4000 calories a day; going on a 2 hour walk once a week, running 10k three times a week, or going to the gym every day, is not going to make a dent in your weight on the scales.
We know this is hard to believe, but we tell you this because it is our job to do so. We want you to be successful in achieving your goals, and if that goal is to see the numbers decrease on the scales then the area to focus your energy is most definitely in the food!
The hard facts!
To bring this into focus, every week I run 3 or 4 times a week, around 6 miles each time, I do 4 HIIT sessions at Be Strong groups, and I do a weekly weights session, and do you think I continuously lose weight?
No! My weight has fluctuated in the same range for over 18 months now. Some days I am light, some days a bit heavier, but generally speaking I maintain my weight within a 4 pound range.
Why? Because I eat! I drink! I enjoy the odd pieces of chocolate and maybe even a bit of cake occasionally. I don’t binge excessively, which is why I don’t gain, but nor am I getting into the realms of energy deficit, so therefore I don’t lose either. On average across the week, I must eat and drink as many calories as I am burning.
Another example, in December, Rick ran 3 miles every single day, even Christmas day! He did not lose any weight in December, in fact he put on a little bit of weight. Why? Can you guess? Because he consumed more energy in fuel than he was burning with his runs. Its science. Understand your energy balance and you will understand how to lose weight.
How to lose 1lb a week through exercise!
For a person to be gaining weight, they will be consuming at least 500 calories a day more than their body needs. For someone to lose weight they need to create an energy deficit of 500 calories. So to carry on eating as they are and lose weight, this person needs to burn 1000 calories a day to exercise their way out of it.
Obviously the heavier we are, the more effort it takes to carry out activity as we are moving more mass, so a 15 stone person, burns more calories than a 10 stone person, but we can look at averages to get an idea of the principle. This list below gives an indication of the time taken on a particular exercise for an average woman to burn 1000 calories.
To lose 1lb a week and continue to eat the way you are, choose one of these activities to do every single day:
- 10 mile run
- 1 hour 10 minutes spin class
- 1 hour 30 minutes swimming
- 90 minutes circuit training
- 2 hours HIIT
- 4 hours strength training/lifting heavy weights
- 3 hours low impact aerobics
- 2 hours boogie bounce/trampoline fitness
- 2 hours vigorous dancing
- 4.5 hours mid tempo dancing
- 5.5 hours yoga
- 3 hours pilates
Still want to exercise yourself to weight loss?
We love exercise!
Now I am not suggesting that exercising is a waste of time. Absolutely not. But we must put exercise into perspective, and that perspective is the comparison with what we have also put in our mouth -our energy balance.
Exercise has so many benefits and it can certainly help to maintain our weight, once we have lost it. It also helps to speed up our metabolism, and therefore make our bodies more efficient at burning calories, but unless you get the energy balance tipped in the right direction, you won’t lose weight.
I love exercise – every kind of exercise (except road cycling – as it scares me to death!). I love exercise so much that I get grouchy when I don’t exercise. I love exercise for the way it changes my mood, the way it changes my body shape, and the way it makes me feel strong, like I can take on the world.
There are so many benefits to exercise, some physical, some mental, here are just a few:
- Exercise releases endorphins, which produce positive feelings and reduce the perception of pain. It reduces feelings of anxiety and depression.
- Exercise is really good for our muscles and bones. Regular exercise (particularly high impact exercise) builds muscles and increases our bone density. This means, if we keep it up, as we age, we reduce the risk of osteoporosis and muscles wastage.
- Regular exercise reduces your risk of chronic disease – with proven improvements in insulin sensitivity, body composition, blood pressure, blood fat levels and cardio vascular fitness.
- Regular exercise produces anti-oxidants in the body, improving your skin tone and delaying signs of ageing.
- Exercising regularly improves the blood flow to your brain, improving memory and mental function.
- Exercise improves your sleep. Not only does it improve the quality of sleep, but for those who suffer with insomnia, it has also been shown to increase the period of time that they sleep.
- Exercising at a high intensity (i.e. getting our heart rate up) burns the visceral fat that we store around our organs – this is the most dangerous type of fat that our bodies store, so the less we have of it, the healthier we are.
- For those who suffer with chronic pain disorders, exercise can reduce the amount of pain and improve quality of life. It can also raise pain tolerance and reduce pain perception.
- Its even been shown to improve your sex life!
To me, getting fitter is the combination of all those benefits of exercise listed above coupled with the ability to do things I couldn’t do previously. Seven years ago, I couldn’t walk upstairs without getting out of breath, I downloaded the couch to 5k app, and nearly died when it told me to run for 60 seconds. Over time, as I got fitter, my cardio vascular ability improved, my muscles got stronger, and I was able to do things that I had never been able to do before. Seven years on I’ve completed countless 10k’s and half marathons, achieving many ‘Personal Bests’, a Tough Mudder, the Yorkshire Three Peaks twice and the National Three Peaks Challenge and I can’t wait to find out what else I can achieve.
Getting fitter is a confidence booster – it makes you realise that anything is possible, if you just put the effort in. Your only barrier is you and your attitude. This positive can-do attitude almost guarantees success, so why not apply this attitude to how you fuel your body? We see so many people absolutely loving their new active lifestyles but still not applying the energy deficit principle – overcompensating with the treats after exercise, a ‘cheat day’ becoming an ‘every other day’ thing, or just not opening their minds to what they are fuelling their bodies with. Be brave – take charge of the calories, don’t let them take charge of you, and then your success will be without bounds.
Make the magic happen!
If you are currently putting 100% into your exercise and improving your fitness, you will undoubtedly see results like a change in shape, feeling fitter and stronger, losing inches, feeling happier. If your goal is also (or only!) to lose weight; have a think – do you need to refocus some of your effort into making sure what you put in your mouth is conducive to your ultimate goal of weight loss?
Deep down, we think most people know that the answer is in reducing the food, looking at the calories and making sure they hit their energy deficit. We can tell with the nods around the room when we talk about this in groups, but we still hear that it’s the exercise that is going to make all your weight loss dreams come true. Stop kidding yourself that you earned that treat, because you did a workout, or you have been for a long walk or run. Stop wasting all that exercise that you have done, by refuelling with the wrong highly calorific foods.
Make the magic happen, get the energy deficit right and you will be reaching goal before you know it. Then once you get there – the sky really is the limit – because the story doesn’t end there – who knows what you are capable of?