According to a 2012 report, over half of those who choose to join a gym in the UK cite fat loss as their main motivation. It makes sense, to lose weight you have to burn calories and the best way to achieve that is by exercising.
But there’s a problem, exercise doesn’t help us lose weight.
Yes, you read that correctly, and that’s coming from someone who makes a living from helping people exercise.
For clarity I’ll rephrase:
“Exercise, in the absence of dietary intervention, doesn't help us lose weight”
Anecdotally, it’s seems clear. I have met a few people who have trained for events like Tough Mudder or even a marathon in an attempt to lose weight. Not only have these people failed to lose the weight they set out to, some have actually ended up heavier than when they started!
More importantly, research comes to the same conclusion.
The Texas study managed to persuade fifty (out of one hundred) previously sedentary subjects to train for a whopping 60 hours over 12 weeks with a combination of weights and instructor lead circuit classes. The remaining participants were allowed to carry on as they were, and put their feet up.
Unfortunately, the return on investment on all that sweat was rather depressing. Those who battled in the gym for 12 weeks were rewarded with a meagre body fat loss of 1%.
Of course it’s better than nothing, but given that personal training in London averages around £60 per hour that’s £3600 spent for those results!
This isn't the only example! It's just one of a multitude of studies that have come to the same conclusion.
Exercise alone doesn’t work because:
1. People who exercise more tend to compensate by eating more
2. Calories are much easier to consume than they are to burn off
The old cliché phrase is, ‘You can’t outrun your fork’.
Think about it. It’s far easier to cut out 500kcals by drinking a couple fewer glasses of wine per week than it is to go for a 45 minute run on a Sunday.
(To digress and explain WHY people feel the need to compensate for their exercise with more food, or HOW one should go about improving their diet would be to detract from the point I am trying to make with this article.)
What I want to say is that we need to shift the focus on the benefits of exercise and why we should be doing more if it.
When I look around at people in the gym, particularly at those who are trying to lose weight, it’s far too common to observe members doing horrible punitive exercise as if they believe the more they suffer the better their results will be.
People resort to endless bodyweight circuits, boring classes or sitting on cardio machines for hours on end, sweating, heaving and suffering.
And it’s not working.
If you want to lose weight, but you don't feel confident in your ability to make progress and sustain it without resorting to:
* Prescriptive meal plans
* Restriction of the foods you love
* Endless will power
Then I recommend you find a good nutrition coach to simplify the process for you.
Of course things will have to change, but possibly not as much as you think. A good coach will work with you to help identify the areas where the easiest changes will produce the best returns, so you can maintain your quality of life while making good progress.
This will free you up to use exercise time as an opportunity to improve and upgrade your body rather than punish it.
When I design programmes for my clients I focus on:
* Restoring mobility
* Correcting imbalances
* Building strength
* Improving fitness
Burning fat never crosses my mind, because I know that can only come from changes to their diet and lifestyle.
This simple shift in perspective immediately makes training more fun and rewarding, because you’ll actually start seeing return on what your efforts, which is what keeps you motivated and coming back.