I know, it’s something you probably didn’t want to hear but it’s time we all face the ugly fact; exercise isn’t going to make you to lose fat. I’m not writing this because of a new study that came out so if you’re only reading this looking for “scientific” evidence then read no further. Nor do I have nothing to sell you so there is no reason to create a poorly conducted study where n=1 to sway you towards a buying a useless product or service (what 99% of the media is doing). I’m just sick of pulling my hair out trying to get people to understand a few simple facts.
Yes, I am a personal trainer and strength coach and as such it is part of my job is to get people to exercise. In fact, coaching exercise is the largest part of my job. I’m just done of watching people get lied to.
Exercise doesn’t make you lose fat.
There are many in the fitness industry who will disagree and crucify me for writing this but I don’t care. I’m sure you’re thinking that I’ve gone off the deep end, blown past Gary Busey crazy, and have went straight up Charlie Sheen nuts. #winning. Well, I may have but that is besides the point.
The question you really need to ask yourself is “Why there are more gyms in the United States, fitness DVDs, and exercise equipment than ever before and we are still getting fatter?!” Not only that but because of the plethora of options available there are MORE people exercising! What gives?!
Low and behold, exercise is probably not the problem. It’s our approach.
Myth #1: You’re doing the wrong type of exercise to lose fat.
Maybe, but that may not affect your results as much as you may think.
There are some trainers out there who will tell you it is because you are using the elliptical, jogging or taking Zumba class to lose weight. You have to lift heavy weights and challenge your cardiac capacity blahbitty blah blah blah. Heck, I have been one of those trainers and I now admit that it was a wrong way of thinking.
The more I think about it there are people that WILL lose fat doing those activities and there are people that will NOT lose fat lifting weights, doing the latest workout from the Biggest Loser, or taking Crossfit classes. So why would I tell someone they have to stop doing Zumba and start lifting weights to lose fat?
Note: In full disclosure I LOVE lifting heavy weights and feel that everyone should train with free weights to get stronger for a whole smorgasbord of other reasons which I will mention later.
Myth #2: You need to work out longer and harder to “feel the burn!”
If you work out doing Prancercize™ for 30 minutes, one day a week then this may be true but for those busting their ass and training 4-5x/week for 60 min each workout this just doesn’t hold any water.
With trainers and TV shows like the Biggest Loser yelling at you to work out harder and longer or you won’t be in the ‘fat burning zone’ it’s no wonder people think they need to crush themselves in order to lose weight. This pisses me off to no end because it simply isn’t true. For a lot of people, the longer and harder you work out the more likely you will:
- continue to over eat due to hunger
- sit or remain inactive when you’re not at the gym because your tired
- make poor food choices because you think you ‘earned’ it
Myth #3: The latest fatloss product or supplement is going to help speed up the process.
Whenever I hear “This exercise will help you lose fat” or “This workout is guaranteed to help you melt away abdominal fat” I want to slam my face into a brick wall. Trainers like Jillian Michaels who pimp their supplements or those who sell cellulite-blasting, tummy-toning, gut-busting workouts or products to make an extra buck need to be shot.
Honestly, any exercise done with enough vigor can potentially help you burn calories which is why pieces of crap like the ShakeWeight and Ab Blaster type things are still sold.
The fact is that you CAN lose weight without exercise. What you CAN’T do is lose weight without proper eating habits. In my experience, the only people who I’ve seen be able to lose fat and maintain a healthy body weight are those who focus on nutrition for fat loss and focus on exercise for fitness and well being.
“If you want to lose weight or decrease body fat you MUST start and continue your efforts by changing your eating habits and potentially your lifestyle.”
I’m sorry but that is the reality. Wait, I’m not sorry. Now you know the truth!
The number one rule of weight loss or fat loss always comes down to calories in vs. calories out. I know it is a vast oversimplification of the matter but for the most part it is that simple. And for those of you who say that different nutrients have different effects on the body, you are right. But in the grand scheme of things this is universally true.
You could argue that all you have to do is work out harder and longer to tip the scale in your favor but that method will only work for so long. In actuality it is FAR easier to cut back on your daily/weekly calorie intake than it is to ‘burn’ the same amount during your workouts.
Unless you are Michael Phelps, you are probably only burning between 400 and 800 calories during each workout. That may only equate to one extra serving or over-sized portion at dinner. It could also be that Starbucks mochafrappiato that you had at luch time that will undo your entire grueling 2hr workout. Sad but true.
That being said, I know you want to ask “So how come I lost weight when I started workout out?”
Yes, most people will lose weight when they start working out but 9 times out of 10 it is water and food weight and chances are that progress will slow and plateau shortly after. NO ONE that starts an exercise program to lose fat is going to continue eating poorly. But without proper attention and consideration they will slip back to their habitual eating habits and progress will come to a screeching halt. And rather than re-focusing on their diet they typically begin to work out harder and longer with their new found fitness under the assumption that is the problem.
My top 3 tips for fatloss (in order):
- Get your calories in check. This is rule numero uno. Buckle down and track your food intake for a couple weeks and count calories. Most people haven’t the slightest clue how much they actually eat on a daily/weekly basis. I don’t recommend doing this forever (unless it really helps) as it is hard to maintain but starting out this way can give you valuable insight into what you are consuming. This will ensure you are on the right track right from the get go.
- Limit your starchy carb intake, especially sugars (fruit NOT included). Everything is low carb this and low carb that nowadays but carbs AREN’T the problem, it’s our relationship with them. Starchy carbs are beneficial when you are training hard but considering most of us work at desk that is hardly the case. Eat some, not a lot, close to when you workout (before or after) and especially limit them on days when you are sitting for 10-12hrs. Carbs won’t kill you but they are easy to over eat which will drive up your calorie count in a heart beat!
- Eat protein sources (meat, eggs, dairy, Greek yogurt), healthy fat (avocados, nuts, olive oil, coconut oil), and veggies at every meal. Protein produces the highest feeling of satiety of all the nutrients and veggies are simply more bang for your buck since they are so low in calories and nutrient dense per serving. Healthy fats (avocado, nuts, olive oil, coconut oil) are important too and good to eat at every meal just make sure to keep the intake moderate. But do load up on the protein and veggies!
Honestly, it’s REALLY EASY to lose fat but it is very hard to maintain which is why so many people see success after the first few weeks but little thereafter. To succeed, it always starts at the beginning and as soon as you ask yourself, “How long is this going to take?”, you have already set yourself up for failure. It is going to take a paradigm shift and a lifestyle change to make fat loss happen and a lifelong commitment to make it stick. If you aren’t willing to make those changes it may be wise to change your goals.
And before I am burned at the stake, I do believe exercise will help you lose fat but if and only if you are on top of your nutrition habits. And before I go, I want to take a second to explain to you why EVERYONE should workout regularly:
What exercise does do:
- Enhances your mood and can help with depression
- Reduce the risk and complication of diabetes
- Lowers your risk for heart disease and cancer
- Grows new brain cells
- Gives you energy
- Increases sexual function
What using free weights to train does do:
- Helps you build muscle (women more than likely will not have the ability to build as much as men, you will get toned)
- Gets you stronger
- Decreases muscle imbalances caused by modern living
- Decreases risk of injury
- Is a measurable way to determine progress
Final Note: Now that I have that off my chest, I do believe exercise will HELP you if you make a change to your nutrition habits and lifestyle first. Use your workouts and training as a way to get stronger and more fit. If you understand this then you will get far more out of both your fitness and fat loss goals!
Whether you agree, disagree with me or are somewhere in between I want to hear what you have to say so comment below. (Please forward all hate mail to JillianMichaels@yahoo.com)