Can you exercise your way to weight loss?
August 6, 2018
As a personal trainer, I have a lot of discussion with my clients about weight loss. Whenever I first meet a new client and ask them to tell me what their goals are, weight loss is invariably high on the list.
I’m very careful to explain to them the misconceptions about an exercise program and meaningful weight loss.
I want them to be positive about the benefits of a regular exercise program but I also want them to have a realistic expectation of what they will achieve with that program.
Weight loss, is simply, about expending more calories than you consume, known as a calorie deficit. And you need a deficit of about 3500 calories to lose 1 lb of body weight.
Here is the first misconception: It is very difficult to burn a lot of calories with exercise alone, regardless of the intensity.
The first step in starting a weight loss program is to calculate both average total daily calorie intake and average daily calorie use, known as TEE or Total Energy Expenditure.
TEE consists of three parts.
- Firstly there is your RMR or Resting Metabolic Rate. This is the number of calories required to maintain basic bodily functions such as breathing, circulation and digestion. This rate is influenced by age, body composition, diet and especially, fitness level.
- Secondly, there is your occupational activity level which is determined by how active you are apart from an exercise program. This can range from sedentary to very active.
- Thirdly, there are the calories used during an exercise program. All these may be determined from gathering data and using various formulas.
Calorie intake may be determined by several methods such as keeping a food diary, or using one the many available apps for this purpose.
Once you have both numbers, you can calculate your average daily calorie deficit. So, for example, if calorie intake is 2000 and TEE is 1500, then your deficit is 500. If your weight loss goal is 1 lb a week, then you would achieve that by maintaining that deficit. Note that the deficit can also be achieved decreasing intake or increasing TEE.
The biggest impact that regular exercise has on this equation is to lower your RMR and thus increase your TEE.
Weight loss is seldom steady or linear, because there are so many different factors at work. Awareness, consistency and help from a personal trainer will all help you achieve your goal.