I’m sure you have heard it before, probably even from me – you can’t out train a bad diet. Meaning, no matter how hard you workout, your excessive exercises cannot negate a poor diet, eating too much, eating like a child all the time or even eating too little over time.
Truth is, you can out-train a bad diet, at first.
Your diet has too many calories in it…
If you go from no exercise to a ton of exercise and don’t change a thing with your diet, you will lose weight initially. It’s calories in, calories out at it’s finest. But then what do you do once you physically cannot add more exercise to your life without missing out on family time, work, sleep, or other more important things?
Aside from running out of time to add in more exercise, there is also the effect of hormonal changes that come with excessive exercise (leptin and ghrelin fluctuations), driving your hunger levels up, and making it easier to eat more than you burn – especially if you are already eating a bunch of calorically dense junk food at will.
If you continue to lean on exercise for fat loss, you also can run into what is known as the constrained theory of energy expenditure – however, it is no longer just theory.
Essentially it has been found that once someone goes over a certain threshold of exercise, their body will actually start decreasing the calories burned from NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis – calories you burn from just moving throughout the day).
The traditional model, the Additive Model, figures that the more exercise one adds to their life, the more total calories will be burned. The latest research has shown the Constrained model to be more realistic – with a breakpoint of diminishing returns.
A little bit of exercise (45-60 min 4 to 7 days per week) can elevate the number of calories you burn each day, a moderate amount likely won’t make a huge difference, and extreme amounts WILL burn more, but this is not likely sustainable.
The best way to see this is to use a step tracker while NOT working out. Most will notice that as they increase working out, their steps actually decrease over time – because the body will naturally begin reducing unnecessary energy expenditure outside of exercise to conserve stores.
The point to take away is not that more exercise is worthless, or “bad” – but rather using more exercise without addressing nutrition is a very steep and frustrating uphill battle.
Your diet has too “LITTLE” calories in it…
Hang with me on this one. There are several instances when I have seen this happen.
Example: Someone believes that they are following a super restrictive diet, only eating 1200 calories, but not losing weight! After a closer look we find:
- They follow this strict diet 5-6 days per week, then go hog wild because they are over restricted and end up eating 2000-3000 or even 4000 calories on one day in the week, putting their weekly average into a caloric surplus.
- They are forgetting to track everything, even the little bites add up!
- They are using inaccurate measurements of their food, and actually eating much more than they believe.
- They are not counting liquid calories (yes, I’ve even had people not track milk because they thought that liquid calories didn’t count…)
- They have been under years of restriction, leading to a slowed metabolic rate, or a dysfunctional thyroid (this is MUCH less common than people think, but it happens)
99% of the time, when it comes to not losing weight because of eating too little, it usually is from more of a user error than an actually slowed metabolic rate.
Even if your goal is weight loss, and you are physically active – you need to make sure you are still eating enough to fuel your workouts, keep your metabolic rate fired up, and most importantly fuel your muscles for recovery.
When you undereat and over exercise, you eventually hit a wall, burn out, get sick, get injured, get overtrained and un-motivated. So even if you are looking to lose weight, your intake should actually increase with your increase in activity – and as long as you create a slight deficit, you will still lose fat at an appropriate rate, and feel much better than most people who are over-restricting.
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