Have you ever pushed yourself an extra 30 minutes at the gym in order to make up for eating ice cream the night before? Or so you could indulge in a few drinks at happy hour later on?
I know I have. Not lately, but I have even ran a few extra miles because of something I decided to eat.
Most would think this would make sense, but the truth is that weight loss doesn’t necessarily work that way. Well, not in the long run.
New research suggests agrees. In a recent Loyola University Health System study, physical activity has many health benefits, ranging from reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer to improving mental health and mood. But contrary to common belief, exercise alone does not help you lose weight.
“This crucial part of the public health message is not appreciated in recommendations to be more active, walk up stairs and eat more fruits and vegetables,” Richard S. Cooper, M.D. and Amy Luke, PhD of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine said. “The prescription needs to be precise: There is only one effective way to lose weight — eat fewer calories.”
I have had to really accept that in my fitness journey. When I was running lots of miles in preparation for half marathons, it was easy to eat pasta on pasta thinking it was serving as fuel or that the fresh warm bread from Bonefish Grill with drinks wouldn’t hurt my weight loss.
I will admit that I continued to lose some weight, I quickly hit a plateau. It’s easy to think that you can eat whatever you want especially if you are running miles and miles every week.
Experts suggest that runners burn about 100 calories per mile. If it’s a moderate run weekend and a runner logs 5-6 miles or burning about 600 miles, it’s quickly gone when rewarded by eating 2 slices of pizza at 275 calories each without a drink or drinking a delicious Chick-Fil-A milkshake of 500 calories without a chicken sandwich or those delicious waffle fries.
If you opt for a more conscious meal like a chicken burrito bowl from Chipolte with brown rice, salsa, and cheese, you’re still looking at nearly 600 calories.
Simply put, you can’t out exercise a bad diet. It’s not possible.
Our diets are what fuel our bodies for exercise, so successfully achieving our goals in the gym is much more likely if we’re nourishing our bodies with nutrients that will help aid muscle repair and replenish energy stores.
I have learned that it takes a well-balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats and whole grains. In the past year, I have lost about 30 pounds. I have maintained the loss even without being on a strict diet. It’s been a combination of diet and exercise to get this far. I still have more work to do to reach some of my goals, but I have a better idea of where I need to do.
What activities are you doing to achieve your goals?