I teach group fitness classes, in case you did not already know, so I’m in constant contact with people, discussing their goals and desired outcomes.
The other day I was at the gym, waiting for one of my classes to start, and one of the members came up to me. They began talking about their goal to compete and how they needed to lose weight. Then I was told that they were only eating 500 calories. This was at 5:30pm and she was planning on taking 2 classes with such little fuel in her body.
Yes, I immediately was like .. WHAT?
This is that ‘trap’ that people fall into. They want to lose weight and they want to lose it RIGHT NOW. We all know that to lose weight we have to eat less calories than we ‘burn.’ Somewhere along the way, even the smarter people try to convince themselves that if they ‘starve’ their body then they’ll get their quicker and can go back to normal.
Before I continue let me say this, if it was that easy to lose weight, would we have an obesity problem in the US? Probably not.
Ok .. back to the topic.
A deficit helps with weight loss. Smart eating helps with weight loss. Exercise helps with weight loss. There has to be a balance with the first and last one.
Your body needs enough fuel to survive, so it has to be a reasonable deficit otherwise it will go into an almost hibernation mode or, worse, start burning off muscle. Also, you’re body is going to react .. your energy levels will tank, you could get sick, and so many other side effects. Most recommendations aim at about 1 – 2 pounds a week is a safe number / goal for weight loss. 1 pound is roughly 3,500 calories … so 3,500 calories of a deficit over 7 days is about 500 calories less a day.
Exercise helps but exercising all day long, beyond the point of being reasonable is not going to help your cause. The body will aches, the muscles could become damaged, the body could also react to this. I’ve seen people who exercise too much that are constantly fighting off illness and infection. Your mood will suffer. Again, things need to be reasonable.
Now, one more statement on this … when you exercise you are burning calories, which in turns adds into the equation of the number of calories that you should consume each day. Let me explain…
So … with a 500 calorie deficit and let’s say a daily goal of 2,000 calories, with no exercise your goal is about 1,500 calories.
If you exercise and burn 300 calories the numbers change. Your body is expected to burn those 2,000 calories plus you just burned 300 more on your own, taking your daily number to 2,300. Subtract your 500 calorie deficit and now you want to 1,800 calories in order to properly refuel the body.
We’ll talk about this again … it’s a common topic that people seem to get sucked into. The moral of the story is that there is no shortcuts to weight loss.
It takes work, dedication, and focus. If you play the game the way it should be played, you’re in luck. Changes will happen. Trust the process and stick with it.
Thanks for reading!
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