Why you can’t exercise your way to weight loss

We pride ourselves here at Be Strong, in being honest.  We don’t dress weight loss up in any weird, complex methods, but just give you the facts, to help you understand how to do it, and do it forever.

This week we are giving you the hard simple facts that you need to hear (or read) to make your weight loss journey as simple as possible, with as few bumps in the road as possible.

The basics

We have talked over the last couple of weeks about the science behind weight loss – how your body maintains, gains and then loses weight.  We have told you how we calculate your calorie allowances, and how we get you into a calorie deficit, so that your body can start to burn excess fat, so that it is lost from your body – hopefully for good.

So now we are going to explain why you can only get that deficit through what you eat, and not how much you exercise.

Exercising to weight loss is a common mistake that many, many people make, and it is also the number one cause of confusion on the scales, each week at group. Whenever someone is expecting a result that they then don’t achieve, 9 out of 10 times, we get told how much exercise they have done that week, and how they can’t understand it. Well hopefully, after reading this article, you will.

The honest truth

As an example, I love exercise, it’s fair to say I am addicted.  I run 3 times a week,  I lead and take part in 4-5 HIIT sessions at Be Strong groups, and I do a weekly weights session if I have time, and do you think I continuously lose weight?

No! My weight has been in the same 6 or 7 pound range for over 2 years now. Some days I am light, some days a bit heavier, but generally speaking I maintain my weight.

Why? Because I eat! I drink! I enjoy the odd pieces of chocolate and even a bit of cake occasionally.  I don’t binge excessively or for long periods of time, 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 2018, Rick ran 3 miles every single day,  even Christmas day! He did not lose any weight that month, in fact he put on a little bit of weight.  Crazy isn’t it, but he must have 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.

The facts

When we are eating to the point that we are gaining weight, we are potentially eating around 1000 calories extra each day, than we should be if we wanted to lose weight.

To explain, 1 pound of fat = 3500 calories, so if we gain a pound a week, we will be consuming 500 calories more than we should each day to maintain, when we need to be consuming 500 calories less than our maintenance target, to get into a good enough calorie deficit every day to lose a pound a week.

So if we want to continue to eat what we like, and just exercise our way to weight loss we need to be burning 1000 calories every day in exercise. Fancy your chances?

So what is 1000 calories in exercise? 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 a 10 stone woman to burn 1000 calories.

To lose 1lb a week and continue to eat the way you are, you would need to choose one of these activities to do every single day:

  • 10 mile run
  • 1 hour 30 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?

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 – are your eggs in the right basket? 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 that 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. Because it’s easier to go and work out for an hour a day than it is to control your food intake for the 16 hours a day, that you are awake.  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 your 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?

This week!

Assess whether you are putting your eggs in the right basket? Are you putting all your effort into the wrong method to lose weight? If you are, make a few tweaks, start to look at your food, what can you do to improve that? What are your quick wins? Start putting your energy into the right area, and the success will follow.

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