So if you know anything about the message I push out on a regular basis, I am an exercise guy, predominantly strength training. Strength training and the benefits around it for sports performance improvement, longevity, and health. If you are to choose one form of exercise, strength training with weights is the way to go. Not cardio, yoga, martial arts, bike riding, swimming, Zumba or Pilates, though they have their place and can be appropriate compliments if you have to pick one pick strength training. The data will back me up on this as well, here, here, and here
That is not what this article is about though; this article is about fat loss.
Fat loss is something that is pretty well understood but is muddied by all the BS out there from every Instagram model and “Advocare Health Expert” just trying to make a buck. As much as the “experts” on social media want you to believe that you need to do is some special workout to get the body you want, take a particular supplement or eat specific foods, they are wrong.
YOUR WORKOUT WILL NOT MAKE YOU SKINNY, and neither will some supplement!
That's right, I am an exercise guy, and I love lifting weights, but my training program is not what allows me to move around between weight classes or get a six pack from time to time. The manipulation of my diet is what allows me to do this. In all reality, my training program is determined by what my strength, hypertrophy (muscle gain), or cardiovascular goals are and not based on my fat loss goals. I may do a little more cardio when the diet gets hard but other than that not much different.
There is a big reason for this. Fat loss is all about a calories deficit. If you can create a calorie deficit, then you will lose fat. Now there are some issues with specific metabolic disturbances that can make this whole scenario hard in populations like the post-obese or people that have been dieting hard for a long time, though that is not what we are talking about here.
Since all we are trying to do is create a caloric deficit, we have to look at how many calories you burn with exercise and how many calories are just not eaten when you change your diet.
So depending on who you are you will burn greater or fewer calories over time than someone of a different body size, body fat percentage or sex. To illustrate a point let's just assume the person we are looking at is 175 lbs. According to Practical Applications in Sports Nutrition you will burn around 200 calories after completing a half hour of moderate aerobic work. Moderate aerobic work could be walking briskly up a hill, going for a jog, or having a moderate to low intensity swim.
Now you have to do that every day of the week to create that 200 calorie deficit per day. Eventually, you will have to add more time or increase the intensity to burn more calories over time because at a certain point you have to burn more calories to keep losing weight, and eventually reach your fat loss goals.
For a comparison here are a few examples of foods that are around 200 calories:
2 tbsp of peanut butter
Two pieces of fruit
Two slices of bread
2 tbsp of mayo
½ of a donut
2/3rds of a slice of pizza
1/3rd of a cup of skittles
1 snickers bar
Two glasses of orange juice
2.5 tbsp ranch dressing
1/3rd cup of alfredo sauce
This list is just to put things into perspective.
Now once you have added exercise into your life, for the health benefits of course, would it be easier to add more exercise, increase the intensity of that exercise, or just cut out a little more food to make that calories deficit just a little bigger?
Are you the kind of person that wants to spend hours killing yourself at the gym? Well, you could do that and spend less time with your family, less time on your hobbies, or you could just avoid eating that 400 calories donut at work and chose one piece of fruit or a granola bar instead. It's up to you, but I know what I would choose.
Losing weight is more about the dietary choices you make then the training and exercise habits you keep. Exercise can do a lot for your coronary artery disease (CAD) risk factors, blood pressure, body composition and overall health. With exercise, the calorie burning potential only goes so far and has some limits. Paying attention to your food will make a much bigger difference in total calories and has a little higher of a ceiling when it comes to how far you can take your fat loss.
I hope this helps you find your way in the fat loss journey, I know that once I figured this out it made a world of difference for me, and sometimes someone just has to show you how to reframe your thinking to help you get the best results.