Ahhh! The age-old questions in the realm of dieting for fat loss...
"I need to workout more intensely to lose weight, right?!?"
"How does exercise fit into my goals?!"
"Too lose weight I don't need to change my nutrition, I just need to exercise more right?!"
98% of the time our clients' goals are losing body fat so they can fit in their clothes better, have more confidence, and have better energy.
Something we hear all the time is "I'm working out, why am I not losing weight, why is the way my body looks not really changing?!"
In this space, it's common to hear a myriad of opnions and answers to the question "do I need to workout more to lose weight?" and about how training can affect weight loss goals.
On an elementary level it makes sense that more training would lead to more fat loss. If you burn more calories, you create a larger deficit and results "should" appear more quickly.
But, as we've dicussed in previous articles about metabolism, a larger deficit doesn't always lead to more timely results.
There is a general tendency to overestimate the effects of training on fat loss and underestimate the effects of nutrition on that same goal.
The mis-estimation is largely the function of perpetually incomplete information in the health sphere. More exercise is an easier sell and easier commitment than more awareness of your nutrition.
Let's be honest: dietary changes aren't as fun as a training session. "Do this workout and experience miraculous results" sounds much better than "track how certain foods and their respective quantities affect your body."
One requires a lifetime of awareness, the other requires a couple hours per week. This is why so many people find success when they begin focusing on their nutrition with a 1:1 coach.
Don't get me wrong, someone who is brand new to resistance training will get results from just exercising, but it doesn't last long or amount to the body composition change most of our clients are truly looking for.
Fat loss is about 80% nutrition habits and 20% training.
The big question that remains is WHY nutrition has such a big affect on fat loss and WHY sticking to a methodical training plan without "adding more, or adding more cardio, to speed up fat loss" leads to greater (and quicker!) results.
The answer is multifold.
Considerations for those who are underexercising.
Exercise is like a drug.
Much like a drug, there is the right dose, an underdose, and an overdose. Something that is designed to help you can be destructive in the incorrect dose.
For someone who is chronically underdosing (aka, not getting enough) exercise, funky things start to happen with hunger and mindset when exercise increases.
Without dietary awareness of practice recognizing hunger cues, many people end up drastically increasing food consumption when they begin exercising because of increased appetite.
While this may lead to more muscle building (depending on their calories and macro breakdwon) it's also going to come at a cost of potential fat gain and eliminate the desired response of inducing fat loss and "toning up."
Many people also overestimate how many calories they burn during exercise. So, it is common for these people to tell themselves "I'll eat more because I exercised today" and then overeat.
That being said, these are usually the only individuals that will experience a positive change in fat loss by training more when diet is accounted for.
For this individual, more exercise COULD improve body composition, but only with tangential dietary interventions like working with a coach and being intentional with nutrient breakdown.
If this is you, make a small change. Work out twice per week at 85% intensity. Track your nutrition. See how your body changes!
Considerations for those who are already exercising regularly.
Once someone has been exercising consistently for a few months and don't see the body compositional change they are looking for they start to get frustrated and look for ways to speed up fat loss. Unfortunately a lot of the time what they try to do is a) eat less and b) increase exercise.
If some exercise is good, more must be better, right?
Not so much.
Overexercising causes its own unique set of problems. We briefly touched on the destructive nature of creating a too large of a caloric deficit above.
While at its core, calories in versus calories out is a self-evident truth, in the fitness industry we have a tendency to underestimate the body's ability to self-regulate its metabolism.
"Calories out" isn't only defined by what you burn in the gym, it's also what your body burns to stay alive and during everyday activities.
Your body is a beautiful, smart, efficient machine that is working hard to keep you alive all day long. It doesn't like being in a caloric deficit very much...especially a big one. It isn't advantageous for survival.
Thus, an excessive caloric deficit cause by an overdose in exercise and/or very low calories can cause...
- Lower basal metabolic rate which decreases healthy sex drives, organ health, and basic body processess.
- A decreased resting metabolic rate which will leave you feeling sluggish at work or too tired to run around with your kids or grandkids.
- It will cause a stress response that ramps up cortisol levels, decreasing sleep quality and blocking the mobilization of your fat cells for energy.
- Slower (or completely stalled) weight loss.
With great coaching, we can isolate this issue and fix it!
For the average person, these signs put together--and the general slowing of fat loss as a result--makes them feel like they need to exercise more. This exacerbates the issue and can cause a destructive cycle of yo-yo dieting and injury!
For individuals that are already exercising 5 times a week, increasing exercise won't help you lose more weight. In fact, exercise overdose and the resulting destructive loop can have the opposite effect and cause a lot of frustration in the process.
If you're someone who has always wondered "do I need to workout more to lose weight?" be patient, seek the advice of a nutrition coach who can support you metnally and physicall and remember that you're not alone!
Many people have been where you are--including many of the people we've worked with and continue to work with at CNU Fit.
It takes time and effort to reverse the "more=better" mindset but it is possible with time, effort, and guidance. Give your body time to prove it to you by sticking with your training and nutriiton plan to focusing on fueling your body.