By Taylor Robbins, C.S.C.S
There is this very common philosophy in the fitness arena, that if one wants to get into shape, or especially, wants to lose weight, one must simply eat less and train more.
I am going to explain why you should NOT do this.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. Energy balance (calories in versus calories out) is the law of thermodynamics and I do not disagree with that. This understanding is the foundation of our coaching programs. However, it is very misunderstood and therefore ill-applied.
You may be tempted to go on a 1200 calorie diet and start working out 2 times a day, thinking it’s a sure-fire way to your results. But, those of you who actually did this can attest, the results were not what you thought. Or, you get the results, but as a short-term gain.
Look at the Biggest Loser contestants. A majority of the winners and contestants put all their weight back on and even more in a matter of months or a couple short years. They were training 5 hours a day, eating 1200 calories or less, and seeing 10+ pounds of weight loss a week, but it was not a long term solution.
There are ramifications with dieting too hard and exercising too strenuously or frequently.
Let me unpack this for you.
Misconception #1- A Calorie is a calorie
Not all calories are created equal. Meaning, 100 calories of steak is actually not equal to 100 calories of pasta. Someone might say, “They are both 100 calories though,” and I would say correct. However, upon ingestion, magic happens.
Protein dense foods like steak have a thermic effect of about 30%. This means your body expends energy just digesting the steak. So, in actuality, that 100 calories now nets to 70.
Carb dense foods like the pasta only have a thermic effect of 5%. This means you net 95 calories after eating it.
You see, 95 calories versus 70 calories is not equal.
Instead of tracking calories only, look at macro and micronutrients. Understand how much protein, carbs, and fats your body needs and how to fulfill all your nutrient needs like magnesium, iodine, chromium, vitamin c, sodium, etc.
When your body is fully nourished, and you are affecting hormones positively, you will turn the fat burning button on, and start getting the results you want.
Misconception #2- More is better with exercise
There is always a hormonal response with any environmental stimulus on the body. WIth that said, hormones are very sensitive.
For example, running at a moderate pace for more than 15 minutes initiates a rising cortisol concentration in the bloo d. Cortisol, when chronically in high levels, causes a slowed metabolism, an increased appetite, reduced sleep quality, impaired digestion, and other scientific stuff that you don’t care about.
When exercising too frequently, cortisol begins to rise even further. Chronic inflammation takes effect and fat cells retain their energy substrates in an effort to protect the body.
When exercising longer than an hour, cortisol has another spike and testosterone and other fat metabolizing hormones start to go down.
Many of you already have stressful lives. We have had clients start with us and we decrease their training load, to have them finally start to see results.
You see, the body needs just enough stimulus for change, but not too much as you begin to see diminishing returns. Some call this the stimulus recovery adaptation curve.
Know your stress levels, and listen to your body, and get it done in as little time as possible. Sometimes, a really intense 20 minute HIIT workout will do more for you than running for 60 minutes. Or, maybe you had a stressful week and your sleep has been sucking. Decide to do only 3 workouts this week instead of 5.
Misconception #3- If you restrict calories, you will always lose weight
This is a tricky one. It’s true, in order to lose weight, you need to be in an energy deficit (expending more calories/energy than you are consuming via food), however, people forget about metabolic adaptation.
Let’s say, in order for you to maintain your weight right now, you need to consume 2000 healthy calories a day. So, you go to 1800, start to exercise, and create a 400 calorie deficit which should bear a 1-2 lbs of fat loss a week.
After the first week, this plan is working like money. But, in week 2, you only lose ½ a pound, and in the 3rd week, you lost none. WHAT THE HECK, RIGHT?
Your metabolism is always trying to create homeostasis. It’s how we survive. Famines used to be very common and seasons changed the availability of food. In order to see constant weight loss, you need to address the metabolic adaptation by creating a new deficit.
After 14 days of 1800 calories, you now need to go to 1520. After hitting that for 2 weeks, you would create another deficit.
You may be thinking at this point, so when does it stop. Do I need to eat 1000 calories a day to hit my goal. NO!
This is where the magic of reverse dieting comes in.
We utilize reverse dieting with all our clients, but you basically increase calories for a short season, having the goal of maintaining your weight, and because you do this very marginally and with proper nutrient addition, you get the metabolism to lift, and can now start a deficit process yet again.
This is one of the big secrets with having longevity of weight loss. And it keeps the metabolism healthy and flexible.
As you can now see, the body is a complex organism, with multiple parts being interdependent on each other. The key, finding a balance between energy deficit, a progressive training stimulus, consistent behavior to formulate new habits, and measuring everything to manage results well.
Taylor “Less is More” Robbins
By Taylor Robbins, C.S.C.S