Anyone who’s spent a sleepless night channel surfing or perused the magazine rack in the supermarket can’t help but notice the number of infomercials and articles claiming to be the “next best thing” for winning the “battle of the bulge.” Seemingly everyone claims to have the hidden secret to fat loss – whether it’s following “x” diet or “y” exercise routine.
Unfortunately these sales pitches have a dichotomous effect on us. On one hand, the more we watch and read and dissect the avalanche of information, the more hopeful we are that we can make things happen. Conversely, deep down, we can also feel paralysed because we know that it’s just not that easy.
If this endless loop of television shows, news stories, websites, books, magazines, and DVDs tells us how we can go about getting our sexy on…why are we still overweight and searching for answers?
Let’s sift through the noise. As it turns out, there are really only two important keys to losing fat. That’s right, two. It’s just that everybody forgets them. So what are they?
FORGOTTEN FAT-LOSS KEY #1: CALORIES COUNT MORE THAN EXERCISE
Let’s be perfectly clear here: when it comes to fat loss, calories count. Big time.
Yes, you’ve heard this before. You’ve heard this 10,000 times before. Everyone says the same thing, so why do you feel like the lone exception in all of human history that it doesn’t apply to?
Habits are indeed hard to break, and it could be argued that changing what you eat and drink on a daily basis are the hardest ones of all, but as renowned strength coach and co-author of the bestselling book The New Rules for Life, Alwyn Cosgrove, has repeatedly stated, “You’ll never out-train a poor diet.”
There’s no magic pill – or training regimen – that’s going to compensate for, let alone trump, a lackluster approach to what you eat.
In order to burn body fat, it’s hugely important to elicit some sort of caloric deficit – calories in must be less than calories out – either through diet, exercise, or a combination of the two.
Exercise can make this problem worse. How? As soon as they decide they want to lose fat, many people are quick to chase after the latest fitness craze in an effort to finally get into their “skinny” jeans (or someone else’s). Sound familiar?
Well, doing super-duper-red-hot-naked-metabolic-yoga-insanity-pilates-extreme won’t really matter much if you’re the type of person who hightails it to your local Starbucks after every training session to order a Frappuccino the size of a Mini Cooper.
Here’s the truth: When it comes to creating a caloric deficit, which in turn leads to increased fat loss, diet plays a much larger role compared to exercise. While the exact number varies depending on whom you ask, for simplicity sake let’s embrace the commonly held notion that one pound of fat equates to 3500 of excess calories ingested. Then let’s say you’re trying to cut 500 calories per day to lose a half a kilo of fat in one week.
If you’re really pushing yourself hard in the gym, it generally takes 45-60 minutes of vigorous, your-heart-is-going-to-explode exercise to burn off 500 calories. Compare that effort to what it takes to not eat that Snickers bar you typically have as a mid-afternoon snack, or maybe nixing nightly cocktails, or passing on a pit stop at McDonalds. What is a better use of your time: 60 minutes of gym-base masochism, or simply not eating those 500 calories you don’t need each day?
It doesn’t matter how many days per week you work out, nor how hard you work out, or even how long you work out; when it comes to the battle of the bulge, your day-to-day nutrition is going to be the “x” factor. It’s as simple as that.
FORGOTTEN FAT-LOSS KEY #2: EXERCISE DOES COUNT, JUST NOT IN THE WAY YOU THINK
The Food Smackdown: Boost Your Weight-Loss Success With The Right Fuel
If you’re watching your caloric intake and exercising, you WILL feel hungry. Exercise requires fuel. So while your body is telling you to “eat, eat, eat,” and your mind is telling you, “watch the calories!” your sanity is the fraying rope in that tug-of-war. Your answer: Don’t eat more food, eat better food.
Placing a premium on whole, minimally processed, nutrient dense foods is a surefire way to help stave off incessant cravings to overeat.
As an example, let’s take your standard cinnamon raisin bagel and compare that to a cup of oatmeal.
The bagel will typically yield roughly 500 calories of highly processed white flour with little to no fiber and will raise your insulin levels sky high. That insulin burst will both tell your body to store the sugar as fat and make you crave more food later. Lose-lose.
Conversely, a cup of rolled oats yields 300 calories with eight grams of protein and ten grams of fiber, both of which will help satiate hunger longer, control blood sugar levels, and stave off cravings throughout the day. And if you don’t want to lose the cinnamon and raisins, add them in yourself. Big win.