When people go on a weight loss journey, one of the first things they do is establish an exercise regime. And that is a great first step; exercise is super important and does so much for your physical and mental wellbeing. Regular physical activity improves your muscle strength, boosts your endurance, improves sleep, reduces anxiety, and just boosts your overall health.
However, for most individuals, exercise alone won’t make you lose weight.
Read the above again.
If you’re feeling surprised, confused, or shocked, that’s normal. This statement is the exact opposite of the message we’ve been getting for years, which is that as long as you burn the excess calories with exercise, you can eat whatever you want and still lose weight.
This messaging has been reinforced for years by gyms, fitness influencers, celebrities… and not only is it wrong, but it’s also misleading.
Exercise actually accounts for a SMALL portion of daily calories burned. Your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), or the total number of calories you burn per day, is a combination of 4 different factors:
Resting metabolic rate (RMR), or the amount of energy your body uses for basic functions like breathing, blood circulation, organ functions, and neurological functions.
Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT), or the amount of energy your body uses to do daily activities such as walking around your house, spontaneous muscle contractions, fidgeting, cleaning, or climbing stairs.
Exercise, which includes the amount of energy you use for planned bouts of physical activity. This will depend on the intensity and duration of the workout.
Thermic Effect of Food (TEF), or the amount of energy your body uses to chew, digest, and store food.
While RMR accounts for 60-75% of your TDEE, exercise makes up about 10-30% each day. So while 100% of the energy we gain comes from food, we burn 10-30% of it with physical activity.
It would take an incredible amount of time, will, and energy to make a real impact through exercise. You would need to dedicate significant time to exercising to burn enough calories for weight loss, which most of us do not have.
For example, if you added 60 minutes of moderately intense cardio 4 days a week while keeping your calorie intake the exact same for 30 days, you would hypothetically lose around 3-4 pounds. However, if you increase your food intake or take a few days off from the exercise, then even less weight would be lost.
If you’re someone trying to lose dozens of pounds, it would be unrealistic to “burn off” excess caloric intake with exercise. You shouldn’t expect to lose a significant amount of weight by increasing physical activity alone. Furthermore, we often overestimate how many calories we burn through exercise and underestimate how many calories we eat during the day. Thus, focusing on ramping up your activity levels while ignoring your diet will not do much for your weight loss journey.
Don’t get me wrong: exercise is great for your health, as stated above. Moreover, exercise does play a larger role in maintaining weight loss, as doing such does not require a deficit of energy. However, ONLY exercising while ignoring your diet just isn’t a good weight loss strategy. What you eat (and how much you eat) has a much bigger impact on your weight.
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The Ken Method is a Tribeca based personal training team established since 2019. You can reach us via Instagram where we post everything health related. Follow us here.