Friday, April 10, 2009

How Exercise Affects Weight Loss

In today’s Hungry Girl Email, she explains how some fitness efforts can actually backfire, if you’re not careful:

“…research shows that people grossly overestimate how many calories they burn during exercise. Not only that, but physical activity often makes people hungry. And since we tend to think we've burned more calories than we really have, we can end up consuming MORE calories than we've burned.”

I have noticed this myself – big time. I started working out again in earnest last November. I joined the circuit training class with my trainer, Scott. I was exercising at least 3 times a week, but my eating was out of control. I was starting to feel better physically, but it wasn’t until January that I started to lose weight. What changed? I started tracking calories with FitDay so I was clear about the calorie restriction I was creating.

I loved seeing my calories burned per day go up so I thought, hey – why don’t I start exercising MORE? I was already doing the circuit training 3 times per week plus yoga 2 times per week. How about adding 3 or more extra cardio sessions to burn more calories? I started hitting the cardio machines (elliptical and/or treadmill) for 30-60 minutes BEFORE going to Scott’s class. I felt like I was so hardcore. The problem? I was ravenous!!! I was still tracking calories but I just couldn’t restrict myself down below 1650 per day. And often, I was reaching 1900-2000 calories eaten. That’s not horrible, and it was understandable considering how much I was working out. But what was the net effect? Not a whole lot. My rate of weight loss was about the same, if not a tad slower.

So, I came to the realization that I was wearing myself out needlessly. I was struggling to get through Scott’s workouts because I was already tired from a whole day of work plus an hour on the cardio machines. I was choosing quantity over quality and not really getting where I wanted to go. That led me to take a step back and reassess. Right now I’m sticking to the 3 training and 2 yoga sessions per week, for the most part, and filling in with cardio only when one of those things can’t happen – like when yoga was canceled on Tuesday, I did 45 minutes on the treadmill instead. I’ll also do the same today, Friday, because nothing else is scheduled and I feel like doing it (I know, who is this and what did she do with Amelia?) If I didn’t, I would take today off, too. Sunday is my mandatory rest day to let my muscles recover. I think that 5-6 times a week a just fine, thank you very much!

The issue is really about balance. Exercise was making me feel so great so would more just be even better? No, not so much. I’m back in a more realistic groove and the proof is in the results. I’ve found it much easier to stick with closer to 1500 calories each day and I’m not exhausted. Win-win. And if that wasn’t enough, the scale is showing me love, too. As of this morning, I’m down to 228.2 for a grand total of 15.5 lbs lost!

I am coming up on a pretty challenging weekend. I’m going to NJ to seeing my family. Between a nice dinner out with my Dad and Stepmother and the Passover Seder with my Mom and Grandmother, I’ll be surely tested. But like I found with exercise, balance is important. I have been 99% on point this week so I plan to loosen up a little over the weekend. I’ll use some WW shorthand in the manner of Points to track my intake – shooting for more of maintenance level of 2000 calories per day on Sat and Sun.


Anonymous said...

Well done you!!!!

I haven't weighed myself in a while. I'm scared!!!


Don’t worry about what the scale says, FT! Just get back on and reassess. The most important thing is taking care of yourself – the numbers on the scale are just feedback. I hope you are feeling well – I have to go see what’s up on your site. I’m overdue!