Last week we introduced what we believe to be the Big Rocks or the essentials of health and fitness. The most important areas to focus on that will bring you the most success in your fitness journey. Each week we are going to dig a little deeper into each of these big rocks.
First up is Energy Balance Does Matter. We are referring to calories in vs. calories out when we talk about energy balance. The amount of calories you take in versus the amount of calories you burn will determine if you lose weight, maintain weight or gain weight. Research has proven over and over again that in order to lose weight, you need to be in a calorie deficit. You can create a calorie deficit by consuming fewer calories, becoming more active to burn extra calories or combination of the two. Combining both diet and exercise is the most effective way to lose weight rather than depending on calorie restriction or exercise alone.
For most people, it is much easier to cut excess calories than to try and burn off excess calories through exercise. You have probably heard the phrase “you can’t out exercise a bad diet” and it is very true. It is hard to exercise enough to undo the calories from high fat, high sugar, and high calorie foods. Say on average, working out for 30 minutes, be it running, weight lifting, swimming, biking, etc will burn roughly 150 to 300 calories.
That’s nothing compared to the calories in most processed food.
1 can of coke or 1 tall Starbucks latte is 150 calories
McDonalds small french fries is 225 calories
2 dips of ice cream is 280 calories
2 slices of pepperoni pizza is 570 calories
2 Skyline cheese coneys is 700 calories
Cheeseburger from a restaurant roughly 1,000 calories
You get the point.
That is not to say exercise is not important. Exercise has many benefits. It can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, lowers your risk of developing certain diseases and can help lower rates of anxiety and depression. Exercise can also increase metabolism or how many calories your body can burn a day as well as increase lean mass which in turn helps increase the number of calories you burn each day.
When it comes to weight loss, studies show that those who combine diet and exercise to lose weight are better able to maintain weight loss. A healthy diet drives weight loss while exercise helps to maintain it.
There are all kinds of diets out there to help you lose weight. All diets have one thing in common they help you to produce a calorie deficit. Weight Watchers does it by how many points you get a day. Keto and Atkins limit the amount of carbs and fruit you consume. Paleo limits grains, legumes and dairy. Vegan diets limit the amount of food from animals. And, intermittent fasting (IF) only has you eat during a certain time frame. By limiting or taking away certain foods, you end up lowering your daily overall calorie intake. All of these diets have benefits if you follow them but you do not have to follow a specific diet to lose weight.
The other important thing that most diets have in common is they emphasize whole foods and increased veggie intake which is always a good thing. Just remember, no one diet is best for everyone. And, what works for you may not work for someone else. If one of these diets bring you weight loss success and you enjoy eating that way, great. You need to find a way of eating that you can continue for the long haul and you can consistently take in fewer calories than you burn if your goal is weight loss.
If your goal is weight loss you can start by looking at your current diet and seeing where you can make changes. Do you have a lot of extras in your diet that you don’t need? If your diet consists of highly processed foods high in fat or sugar (muffins, chips, cookies, soda, lattes, fast food) start there. Swap out those foods for lower calorie nutritionally dense options like veggies, fruit, whole grains, and lean proteins. These foods are naturally lower in calories and more filling.
If you drink soda on a daily basis get rid of that. Examine your alcohol consumption, if you are having more than 1 drink a night for women or 2 drinks a night for men, cut back there to get rid of extra calories.
How many times are you eating out a week? You will most likely save calories by cutting back on how many times you eat out and instead cooking at home. Restaurants add a lot of extras, especially oils and butters and portion size is 2 to 3 times larger than we need.
If you feel your diet is already good and you are consuming mostly whole nutrient dense foods with high in fiber, than maybe you need to look at your portion sizes and how much you are eating over the day. Portion size can make a big difference in weight loss. Also, make sure you are not taking in extra calories by adding too many condiments or late night snacking.
Once you examine your diet and have a game plan, next look at your daily movement and exercise for the day. How much are you moving throughout the day? Are you getting up from your desk every 30 minutes to 1 hour to move?
Start by adding more movement in your day by parking further away, walking on your lunch break or by taking the stairs. Do some chores around the house. Work in the yard. Or take a walk or bike ride with the family in the evening. All movement adds up. On top of daily movement you want to engage in some form of exercise on most days of the week. Shoot for a minimum of 30 minutes at least 5 times a week.
Now that the weather is nice, there is a lot more opportunity for being active outside. Get out, enjoy nature and increase your movement. We are moving into peak season for many fruits and veggies too. There is no better time to indulge in fresh fruits and veggies from local farmers.