You spend hours at the gym but can’t seem to drop a pound. Or maybe you’re now training for a half marathon and find you actually gained a few pounds. What is going on? Isn’t exercise supposed to help you LOSE weight? Well it can – but chances are that you are “outeating your workout”. In other words, you are taking in more calories than you think … in sneaky ways!
This is actually a common scenario I see with my clients. I think there a few things going on.
First, exercise can make some people feel hungrier. I find that I get especially hungry after weight training vs. cardio.
Second, you may be adding in more snacks that you did before. Example, a late afternoon snack before your 6 pm spin class.
Third, as you amp up the exercise, you may also find yourself increasing your carb intake. While carbs are needed for energy especially during longer cardio sessions, many people overdo it. I recently had a client who lost quite a bit of weight and followed a low carb diet. She had a nice balance going between her caloric intake, carb intake, energy levels and exercise. She then started to compete in team events (like Tough Mudder events). Her pre-race bagel turned into an everyday thing … along with more carbs during the day. Soon the scale started to move upwards. Once we figured out what was going on, we cut back on her carbs a bit, and her weight dropped back down.
Fourth, we may rationalize that we can eat more when we are in exercise mode. “I can have this second piece of pizza – I’ll run an extra 2 miles tomorrow”. I find this little voice to be the most destructive one of all!
10 Tips to stop outeating your workout
If your goal is to lose weight, keep in mind that weight loss is still 80% diet, 20% exercise for most people. While I am a HUGE fan of exercise and encourage all my clients to “move more”, you still have to be super careful with your diet.
1. If your workouts take place in the gym, keep in mind that many machines don’t post accurate calorie burns (did you really burn 500 calories on the elliptical machine when you barely broke a sweat? Hmmm) pic credit
2. If you are using an app to track your food, don’t pay attention to the calories burned during exercise. Many people think ”now I can eat those calories I just burned off”. Nope! Stick to prescribed calorie level to lose weight (1200-1500 for many women and 1600-1900 for many men)
3. Don’t think that taking a spin class 3 times a week is all you need for weight loss. You still need to burn more calories during the day. Here is where the activity trackers come in. Ideally, you would also walk 10,000 steps in addition to your formal exercise.
4. Pay special attention to the times around your workout. You want to provide your body with adequate pre/post fuel. Ideally, consume some carbs prior to a cardio workout and some carbs/little protein afterwards. The duration/intensity of your workout as well as your weight and your goals would dictate how much you would need to eat. I might suggest a banana before a 4 mile morning run and a greek yogurt with berries as your breakfast after the run. No need for bagels at this point! If are doing w weight training session, the food would be the same for the most part – ideally a little protein/carb before and then after. So if you were going to weight train after work at 6 pm, you could have an energy bar with ~ 15 gm protein/some carbs (~200 calories) before working out, then have a dinner after your workout that includes protein/vegetable and moderate amount of healthy carb.
5. Since you may be adding in more calories around the time of your workout, you may need to cut back on calories at some other time during the day. Examples: wine, bread at dinner, cheese in your salad, high calorie salad dressings, smaller portions of carbs or protein at dinner.
6. Stay hydrated. Often times we think we are hungry but our bodies really want fluid
7. Get enough sleep. Your muscles need rest to repair/rebuild and adequate sleep is key. In addition, being sleep deprived will make you hungrier.
9. Pay attention to what your body needs to fuel itself best. I know when I first started cycling years ago, the night before I rode, I would eat about 4 cups of pasta and then have a bagel in the morning. As I tend to do long rides (60+ miles), I felt I would “bonk” if I didn’t eat a lot of carbs the night before. Now I know I can get away with a lot less carbs at night, have a banana/yogurt in the morning as long as I drink a sports drink and have a few gels when I ride. Trial and error. Pic of me carrying my bike over GWB as the ramp was closed!
10. More is not better when it comes to exercise. I find that some of my clients that exercise the most have the most difficulty losing weight. Too much exercise makes you tired and hungry. In my opinion, the ideal program for weight loss would include some kind of strength training 2-3 times a week, cardio 3-5 times a week (30-45 min) and at least 8000 steps a day. Of course, this will very depending upon your individual goals!
With the warm weather starting to emerge, every city girl is ready to sport her new summer dress, strappy sandals, and hit the town with her friends. Even throughout the year, friends always want to catch up over dinner or drinks. Unfortunately, being social and trying to stay slim and healthy doesn’t always come hand-in-hand. You should be able to go out with your friends and enjoy a night on the town without derailing all of your healthy efforts. Here are some smart, quick and easy tips to keep in mind while going out with friends. This post is written by Stefanie Pappas, nutrition student at Penn State. Read More