If you are looking to lose weight, you may think that you need to exercise more to burn more calories. And although some evidence does suggest this will help, in the vast majority of cases upping your exercise quota alone is not necessarily going to result in the weight loss goals you want.
Several studies indicate that more activity does not always correlate to more energy used. It seems that a sensible amount of exercise is an excellent thing to get you where you need to go, but increasing your activity levels exponentially does not result in even more weight loss.
The studies show that at a certain point, the energy expenditure actually plateaus. So that means if you are serious about losing weight, you need to employ a range of strategies for successful weight loss.
You cannot rely on a single thing, such as exercise. You have to consider combining this with a calorie-restricted diet and facing other detrimental lifestyle habits you may have, like drinking too many calories in creamy coffees, sodas, or alcohol and working on your sleep and stress levels.
Realistic Weight Loss from Exercise
How much weight you lose from exercise may depend on where you are when you start. If you are overweight, even obese, and haven't done any training in a long time, then you may see improvements from upping your activity levels alone. At least initially.
However, if you already have a pretty active lifestyle and a regular exercise regime, you won't see such results from adding more workouts. From an evolutionary perspective, the body is excellent at holding onto weight to help it survive.
That means that the body gets used to more physical exercise and does not allow it to lose more weight than it deems necessary. Realistically, from aerobic activity alone, you may only lose up to 3% of weight in the initial phases of a new workout plan. Remember, 3% from a 300-pound person is still 9 pounds.
Exercise Can Make You Gain Weight
Exercise alone can actually mean you seemingly put weight on. This is especially true if you have an unhealthy relationship with food. Without a diet attached to the program, you may end up eating more than your body truly needs to compensate for exercise because you feel hungrier. This barrier to weight loss is more commonly associated with women, but men can also suffer from it.
Just to understand what happens there. If that means your daily food intake exceeds the calories your body burns, you'll create a calorie surplus that needs to go somewhere. The excess calories will need to go somewhere.
When you increase resistance training while eating more than your body burns, you will add some muscle to your frame and some fat too. You may notice changes in your body shape and clothes fit better, but the scale can still stay the same or even go up. If you are super focused on that number, you may feel discouraged to carry on with your plan.
Although it is possible to create a calorie deficit from exercise alone, intense exercise regimes can promote weight loss. Still, you'll have to add a significant amount of extra activity to make a difference. As we discussed earlier, that strategy has its limits depending on your genetic make-up.
Also, what happens when you have a super busy week, and you don't get the chance to be in the gym every day for 2 hours? If you still eat the same amount, your progress will slow down. Aiming for a sustainable amount of activity and training in your week might not bring results as fast as you'd like them to come. Still, if you find a regime you can maintain no matter what, you'll be set for long-term success.
Diet and Exercise
So, we discussed why focusing only on exercise for weight loss might not work and now let's talk about what could work better.
In short, a combination of a sensibly designed nutrition plan and a sustainable workout regime can work wonders for your weight loss goal.
Why? First of all, you'll have two pillars to rely on when it comes to a calorie deficit.
First, you figure out how much you need to eat for a slight deficit, about 10% less than your body's daily calorie intake as it is. Then you add one or two extra activities or workouts into your week that will prompt your body to burn a little more calories on those days. You can gradually make further changes a few weeks later, but the key here is to make small enough changes to avoid losing your drive.
Now, if you're at a point in your life that you don't think you could get started with workouts straight away, gaining control of your diet will result in some weight loss in itself. So much so that eventually you might just feel that you'd like to go for a walk. So in that sense, when it comes to weight loss, diet can be slightly more critical than exercise initially.
The Benefits of Exercise
Let's revert back to our original topic. None of the studies and articles on exercise's effect on weight loss suggests that you shouldn't exercise at all, nor do I—quite the opposite.
The benefits of working out go far beyond the scales. Participating in strength training twice a week will have a range of health benefits, including better balance, confidence, muscle, and bone mass. All of which are becoming more and more important as we age. Cardiovascular exercise is excellent for keeping your heart healthy and burn more calories on any day.
Exercise is excellent for fighting illnesses and diseases like diabetes and hypertension. Also, exercise is a fantastic way to increase your mood. It floods the body full of endorphins and raises the levels of serotonin, the happy chemical.
So, am I saying that you shouldn't exercise when you're on a weight loss journey? Definitely not. Physical activity should be a part of your life to stay healthy, manage your body weight and have fun. Should you focus solely on increasing your activity levels when you want to lose weight? Not again.
My professional recommendation is that you find a balanced approach to both your diet and workout regime to enjoy the benefits of both while working towards your desired body composition goals. Would you like to have a commitment-free chat? Feel free to get in touch!