When it comes to losing weight, we are all aware of the biggest factors – what we put in our body, and what we burn, (calories in, calories out) right? Yes. This IS the premise and most basic understanding of fat loss.
To lose body fat, the body must be in a calorie deficit (eating less than you burn!). This triggers the body to breakdown stored fat for energy to power your body for even the most routine everyday tasks.
So wouldn’t it make sense that if we added more to the other side of the equation (burning more calories) it would work the same way?
In essence, yes, it would. But for most people, this is NOT the way to look at it, and here’s why.
3 Reasons Adding More Exercise Is a Terrible Idea for Fat Loss
1) You are already crunched for time
I’ve had clients talk about their stressful week for a whole session, then end with “I think I need to work out more.” To this, I ask, “When are you going to do this?”.
More exercise might seem like a simple thing to do versus paying attention to your food. But let’s be real if you already are working 60 hours per week, running your kids to and from events, sports, etc. or failing to get 7 hours of sleep per night – you don’t need to make your day any more jam-packed.
I’m a big fan of a minimum of 3 days per week of serious training, and more CAN be better if, and this is a BIG if, you are properly recovering from it and balancing your life overall.
2) You haven’t given ANY thought to your food
You cannot outrun your fork.
“But Mike, my friend started working out every day for 2 hours and lost…”
Where is that friend now?
Look, you will lose weight anytime you go from doing nothing to something. However, is spending 2 hours a day working out, packed into a gym, or living in sweat-soaked clothes something you want to do the rest of your life?
Many people who “win” by the workout burn, “lose” by the workout burn.
Their progress is often short-lived because inevitably, life gets in the way and they can no longer get in 14 hours of exercise a week, they burn out, or they start getting too loose with their food.
3) Your life is stressful
Here’s a shocker. Stress is no fun!
When we talk about adding more exercise, usually people are referring to more intense exercise. Another weekly boot camp, another HIIT workout, another long run, another WOD…
These types of workouts all add stress to your body.
Now, if you are properly balancing out that stress, this is fine! Exercise stresses your body – this is normal and physiologically needed. However, if you are constantly piling up the stressors, throwing MORE stressors on top of things WILL NOT WORK.
What else stresses our body out?
- Sleep deprivation
- Social media exposure
- Caffeine consumption
- Screen time usage
- Alcohol consumption
Well, I think I just described 99% of people who are forcefully struggling through trying to sweat off the pounds.
When we are stressed, our body releases cortisol and a lesser-known hormone, betatrophin.
Betatrophin was once thought to be a potential aid to those struggling with diabetes but now has been found to prevent fat loss – by blocking the breakdown of adipose (fat) tissue.
SO IT’S ALL MY HORMONES’ FAULT!
Many nutritional gurus like to blame hormones for everything. Truth is, they can be a major catalyst in struggling with fat loss, but it always comes back to that tried and true calories in, calories out that we discussed above.
When you are stressed, overworked, under recovered – you are psychologically more likely to gravitate towards calorie-dense junk food – which is pretty much everywhere.
You are less likely to care about your food intake, but then get frustrated when you don’t see the results you want.
You are most likely either eating more than you think or not burning as much as your little gadget tracker tells you.
When you are stressed, under-eating, and over-exercising – you will get sick, you will burn out, and you will eventually give up. This is no way to live life, no way to try and lose weight, and no approach that I will ever advocate to anyone.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Stop trying to add more exercise, or cut more calories.
Exercise should be treated as a means to build, not burn. Build muscle, build strength, build confidence, build endurance, build functional strength, build health.
Replace your desire to add a 5th HIIT class with a 30-minute chill session every night before bed. Meditate, read a calming book, or just chillax.
If you are currently spending 6+ hours per week exercising, but not paying any attention or care to your food – here’s what we do:
- Get your lift on because you enjoy it – 3 days per week, 45 minutes maximum.
- You now have at least 3 hours of your week back to plan meals, shop, cook, prep, track your food, etc.
I GUARANTEE that you will get better results if you do this.
Be patient with yourself and realize that if life has you down right now, or you are busier than busy can be – now might not be the best time to go hardcore on training or dieting – and that’s okay too!
This doesn’t mean to live like a slob.
You can still be active and pay attention to your food choices. Be mindful of what you do to de-stress. Be mindful of your food quality – and realize that quality food often leads to quality feelings/health – but you don’t need to put the pressure of diet and exercise on yourself.
Funny enough, you will probably still lose significant weight even if you do this.