Dave Hargreaves Personal Training

IIFYM, Flexible Dieting & Personal Training at Doherty's Gym, Brunswick

Dave Hargreaves Personal Training

IIFYM, Flexible Dieting & Personal Training at Doherty's Gym, Brunswick

Why exercising to burn calories is a fool’s errand.

Why exercising to burn calories is a fool’s errand.

Favourite gym selfie from 2014, for no apparent reason.

Favourite gym selfie from 2014, for no reason.

New year, same message.

For the new people following my blog, my facebook, twitter or whatever else… you are going to read a lot of similar stuff over and over again, just worded a little differently each time.

This is because the truth is the truth, and it does not change. We can learn to understand it a little better, explain it a little better, implement and apply it differently… but what is true is just what is true. This blog isn’t about fad chasing and doing a big “we thought it was that, but now we know it is this and that changes everything” thing once every 7 months or whatever unlike a lot of the fiction based “health” pages out there.

Now since it is a New Year and you have probably decided something along the lines of “this year I will actually stick to my diet and this time I will be successful in getting into shape”, well… that’s good!

The key there will be to develop your own diet that meets your needs, doesn’t leave you hungry, includes all the stuff that you like to eat (a little of the indulgent stuff, more of the nutritious stuff) and gives you every reason to believe that you will be able to stick with it, long term. It shouldn’t be about forcing yourself to stick to something joyless, restrictive and difficult. It should be about making appropriate choices that make this easiest for you as an individual. Those choices might not be the same as what’s most suitable and easiest for me, or anyone else.

That’s not what I want to talk about today though.

Today let’s talk about RESULTS FROM TRAINING.

Diet is one half of the equation. One side of the coin. If diet is Ying, training is Yang. It’s not so much to say “one without the other is not much use” as it is to say that you should see diet and training as two inseparable aspects of the same singular thing.

Now if you actually do want to see RESULTS FROM TRAINING this year where you might not have in the past, the change in mindset that you need to make is to actually focus on and act in accordance with a goal of “results from training” rather than “exercise to burn calories”.

To achieve a physical transformation in terms of body condition, we must do two things of equal importance. We must provide an appropriate total energy intake via our choices of foods, and we must provide the stimulus that tells our body how to prioritise the allocation of these resources.

On the diet side there is slightly more to it than just “appropriate total energy intake”, but not much more. Within that total energy intake we need enough protein and enough fiber. We need a good spread of vitamins and minerals, so getting our recommended number of servings of fruit and vegetables will help there. The best ratio of carbohydrates to dietary fats will vary from one person to the next depending on a variety of factors, but they’re both important in making up that “appropriate total energy” intake within which all these other requirements are met.

By “appropriate total energy intake” what I really mean is the appropriate amount to maintain a suitable, healthy goal weight range. Not a specific, pin point, precise weight, but somewhere within a suitable range while facilitating improved performance, recovery,and adaptation to training.

People do have a tendency to pick out one specific idea about nutrition in isolation, rather than within the context of “appropriate total energy”. This isn’t terribly helpful. Doing a better job of eating more nutrient dense vegetables is an excellent idea, but if doing so at the exclusion of more energy dense food choices means you are falling significantly short of your requirements, you will not see results from training. You cannot starve yourself into great, healthy, athletic shape. Getting enough vegetables to meet your micronutrient requirements does not mitigate the fact that failing to meet your minimum energy requirements is still a starvation based approach, and it will not work.

When you deliberately restrict energy intake, the result is often that at some point you will involuntarily over eat to make up for the deficit. In which case, often people’s intake on average ends up being in excess, even though they have tried so hard to under eat. So you have two possible outcomes of being underfueled whether deliberately or otherwise; in the one case you fail to see progress due to not providing the necessary resources, or you end up in excess total intake on average, and fail to see progress for that reason.

Here’s another possible situation for people not focused primarily on “appropriate total intake for results from training”. Imagine you’re told “more protein is good, for all these reasons”. More protein IS good. But only within the context of an appropriate total intake. Adding a couple of protein shakes to an already excessive total intake only puts you further into excess, which leads you further from your goals.

It’s funny because I said I wasn’t going to talk so much about diet and was going to focus on training, and look how much I just talked about diet. It goes to show, to my way of thinking the two aspects really are inseparable. Suffice it to say, there are many aspects to nutrition that are helpful or important, but “appropriate total intake” is always king.

Training though. I was supposed to talk about training.

Ok so… now we’ve talked rather a lot about an appropriate total intake to maintain a suitable, sensible, healthy goal weight range. If you’re currently above that weight range, you’re no longer consuming enough to maintain your current weight and you can expect it to change accordingly. The question now is; what sort of condition do you want to be in, within that goal weight range, and what is the most efficient strategy to get closer to that goal condition and goal weight range.

Now hopefully the article title has given you a hint that “exercise and burn more calories” isn’t the right answer. It’s what most people are taught though, it’s what all the exercise programs, gadgets and stupid diet pills seem to be marketed on too. But really, the only purpose”burn more calories” serves is to replicate the effect of deliberately (or accidentally) under eating, and we’ve already covered at great length why that is not a beneficial strategy.

The point of training for results as a distinction to just “exercising to burn calories” is not merely to expend energy as if energy has no value and is something to be gotten rid of. We have allocated the appropriate amount of energy and other nutritional resources, and now we want to ensure it is all put to use in becoming stronger and healthier, with more lean mass in terms of strong, dense bones and firm muscle tissue. We also want to encourage our body to draw more on energy stored in body fat to fuel non-exercise activity as well.

We do not achieve this merely through burning calories with exercise that serves no other purpose. We do this by training for strength, endurance, cardiovascular / respiratory fitness, and so on.

Your body is designed or has evolved to become more efficient at whatever it does regularly. In strength training this means moving more weight for the same amount of reps, or the same amount for more reps. In running or swimming it means going a greater distance in less time. It means doing any of these things with less energy expenditure, rather than more. Training productively means your body will put more and more resources into recovery and adaptation to training, meaning greater performance and greater results.

Exercising just to burn calories, especially if you are also restricting your energy intake only means that your body gets better at conserving energy. This is the opposite of what you want. The purpose of training is not merely to expend energy, but to put it to use in creating your goal body condition.

You must train strategically and consistently, and you must fuel appropriately.

Oh, now if you are interested in an effective training program and guidelines to help you meet your energy and nutritional requirements with your choice of foods, head to the Online Coaching page and sign up for more information.

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