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Monday, October 1, 2012

Exercise and WEIGHT LOSS..Part I

"Wow, you must burn a ton of calories running!" This was the reaction form a client when I told her about my upcoming 50 mile race. My face must've evidenced some confusion as she continued to say "well, running that far.."

Wow, I hadn't ever thought about it like that.  Well, I mean, OF COURSE I realized that I was burning calories.. heck as long as we are still living we are burning calories.  What I mean is that I never looked at my running as a way to burn calories.  That has never been my intention.  I love to run. I have goals to accomplish with my running which require me to train to become better. I run to improve my performance, not to burn calories.  In fact, the more I run, the FEWER calories I burn doing it.  No, that is not a typo.  The more efficient I become, the better I am at covering a certain distance at a given speed, the less it costs my body to do so.

This little interaction highlighted a major error in thinking. Thinking about exercise as a way of burning calories for weight loss.  Yeah, yeah, I know you burn calories when you exercise, but you burn calories just being alive and no one seems to look at THAT as a way to burn calories and lose weight (although we should).

I'm going to let you in on a little secret.  Well, it isn't actually a secret, just something that most people don't know.  When it comes to things that affect how many calories you burn in one day exercise is responsible for a VERY small percentage (maybe 12-15%). Want to know what IS responsible for the majority of calories burned? YOU!!! (60-70%) That's right, the cost of your just being alive is what burns the most calories.  This should highlight AGAIN, the issue with our focus of 'calorie burning' during exercise for weight loss.  What if instead we focus on ways to make ourselves burn more calories in every moment of our life, better yet, on ways to NOT store fat? That, my friends, is why we exercise and what we should be focusing on when we exercise.

Physical stress (resistance training exercise) causes a host of chemical and hormonal changes within our body making the environment conducive to metabolizing ("burning") fat.  Even better, when we are burning fat, we cannot be storing fat- YES, this is what you are looking for. Wait, it gets even better.  A well planned weight training program will build a body that costs more to run- meaning burn more calories just existing... talk about the answer to your prayers!! 

Will just any kind of training do? Nope.  Weight training is a must.  Without that the proper hormonal environment is not created.  Will just any weight training do? Nope. The stress on the body must be something that it cannot easily overcome (read: you must work HARD).  If you pick up a weight for an exercise and can do 25 reps, it is NOT heavy enough.  Not heavy enough to stress the body.  Not heavy enough to cause change.  Not heavy enough to burn fat.  Not heavy enough to get you the results you want.  Not heavy enough period.  There should be a gradual increase in the amount of weight used.  What was a challenge before will not be a challenge now. No challenge? No hormonal change. Period.

Follow me? When you hit the gym forget endless hours on the treadmill or elliptical. No more Zumba marathons.  Find the free weight area and DO WORK.  If you aren't sure how to properly perform the exercises or how to develop a proper training program, hire a trainer.  That is what we are here for.