“I just walked 3 miles…I think I’ll eat an entire pie”
Calories burned = 300
Calories consumed = 2370
“I just lifted weights, yeah, I can eat a whole bag of Doritos”
Calories burned = 200
Calories consumed = 1326
One of the most common things we hear from former athletes is that they think exercise alone will be enough to get back into shape.
Now, don’t get it twisted, exercise can definitely help…to an extent.
But, you see, as evidenced above with the Doritos and the pie, there is a pretty substantial imbalance between intake and output.
The truth is that as much as we try to outwork a poor diet, we just can’t.
It’s just too easy to eat more Calories than it is to burn them off.
Research consistently shows that when we try to induce fat loss with exercise alone, it shows very little effectiveness…especially when compared to exercise + nutritional intervention.
But we get it, it seems crazy that exercise is not enough to lose fat.
It goes against much of what mass media and fitness gurus have been telling us for years.
“Do this exercise and you’ll burn the fat off this body part”,
“Start running and you’ll get skinny”,
“Hot yoga melted off my fat”.
But, these claims can be misleading and frustrating when they don’t produce the results you are after.
“You mean, I can’t just bust my ass at the gym and keep up my current pie-eating and Dorito-crushing habits?”
We get that, but in order to optimize your approach to rebuilding your high-performance body, you need to implement some sound nutritional habits in addition to your exercise routine.
So, what do we do about this?
First, understand that most clients find it empowering to know that a few keystone habits will take your fat loss to the next level.
And empowerment = hope…
And hope is important.
Next, don’t focus on compensating for a bad diet.
Instead, focus on consistency of execution in following the right behaviours that will get you your high-performance body back.
That includes things like:
Grocery shopping, meal planning and food preparation (LINK)
Eating lean protein at every meal
Eating colourful fruits and vegetables at every meal
Eating healthy fats
Sleeping 7-9 hours per night
Eating slowly and mindfully
So, why even bother to exercise then?
First off, exercise can increase your jump height, agility, quickness, speed, power, strength and stamina.
All things that make you a better athlete.
It can also cause shifts in body fat accumulation away from inside your abdomen (this is called visceral fat and is a dangerous form of fat accumulation in and around your organs that can lead to all types of diseases and even cancers)
It can help regulate your blood sugar and make your body more accepting of carbohydrates.
It can strengthen up your bones.
It can increase lean muscle.
It can enhance your functional capacity to keep up and play with your growing kids.
It can lower your blood pressure and heart rate.
It can improve mental health.
It can improve your blood lipids
and It’s fun!
And again, it can help with getting your high-performance body back, it just needs to be combined with a solid nutritional program.
Female former athletes looking to lose body fat
If you’re a female former athlete looking lose body fat, this concept of “exercise alone will not optimize body fat levels” is especially true.
Your bodies will defend against Caloric restriction and therefore fat loss more so than your male counterparts.
Please understand, that you aren’t broken, bad or lazy…you are just fighting against millions of years of evolution.
Physiologically, your body really wants to maintain it’s status quo in order to maintain your cycle and if necessary, support a growing fetus.
You can still fight back against your evolution though, it just takes a smart combination of exercise and nutrition to get back into shape.
High quality, consistent nutrition is therefore essential for success.
1. Use photos as an indicator of progress
If you want to look better, it’s important to track that metric.
Having a visual representation of how your body is changing is great to keep you motivated.
Not only do scheduled progress photos hold you accountable and keep you on track,
They show you how the fat distributions are changing in your body.
So, if you’re frustrated with your progress in that your weight is not changing from your exercise program, throw in some progress photos to show how these distributions are changing
2. Control what you can control
You can’t control how much fat you lose,
There are just too many factors at play in your body.
But you can always control the actions that lead to fat loss in your body.
That includes following a sound nutrition plan that includes lean protein,
colourful fruits and vegetables,
and taking in less food than you’re expending.
3. Don’t train harder, train smarter
Running yourself into the ground to make up for a diet that is not conducive to fat loss is a sure-fire way to overtrain and really stall any potential for getting back into shape.
The quick-fix, ultra-high-intensity-all-the-time workouts can lead to burnout, injuries and eventually termination of your fat loss efforts.
4. Consistency > intensity
This just builds on the last point, but it’s important to re-iterate.
Running yourself into the ground in the 3 hours you exercise each week will not make up for a lack of consistent effort in the other 165 hours in the week.
Those 165 hours should include:
Following your nutritional habits,
Sleeping 7-9 hours per night (Link to article)
And surrounding yourself with an environment that is conducive to your goals.
You can run, but you can’t hide.
That is, you can run all day trying to outwork your diet, but you can’t hide from the truth that fat loss just can’t be optimized without effective nutritional intervention.
Research shows this time and time again.
But, don’t be frustrated by this fact.
Be empowered that a few keystone habits are all it takes to dial in those other 165 hours in the week.