It may be tempting to rationalize eating more than usual because of all the calories you are burning with exercise or activity. As we are digging out of snow storm after snow storm here in the northeast, I hear this quite a bit.
Can We Afford To Eat More If We Are Being More Active?
In theory, yes, but in the real world this rarely works how we would expect.
Most people have the fat loss formula backwards. They first focus on intense exercise to burn excess fuel. As I explain below, this is backwards.
Those who have always been lean and are very athletic tend to be the ones who can seem to eat without restriction and stay lean. Most others can’t.
Shoveling tons of snow, skiing, and intense workouts in the gym are a vital component for fat loss, let alone function and overall health. But there are more important issues to focus on.
The Most Important Role Of Exercise In Fat Loss
In general, the role of intense exercise in fat loss is overemphasized. In fact, the main role in exercise for fat loss is not burning calories.
Instead, the priority of exercise is to first improve movement and tissue quality. Most programs miss this, and pander to your desire to burn by sweating, aching, and getting your heart pounding. Don’t get me wrong…this stuff is great. But keep in mind some people are not yet qualified for prolonged intense exercise. To tolerate this, your nervous system, joints, muscles, etc need to be ready to tolerate this type of work.
In addition, one of the consequences of fat loss programs is muscle loss. This has negative effects on appearance and function, as well as future fat loss because muscle is the site where fat is oxidized (or burned). Exercise programs for fat loss mostly focus on preventing or minimizing muscle loss. Just because you are lifting weights doesn’t mean you are preventing muscle loss.
Prioritizing Your Fat Loss Focus
Fat loss is first and foremost about nutrition. That means controlling calories while providing high quality fuel for your body. Habits, emotions, environment, beliefs, knowledge, and a host of other factors influence nutrition. Failing to account for this is a huge problem in most nutrition programs.
Next, exercise is crucial to instill proper movement patterns and condition tissues, setting the stage for tolerance of more intense exercise.
Then, finally, exercise intensity is ramped up to facilitate more fat burning. Keep in mind this is not always a simple step wise pattern. For example, some may qualify for some very intense exercise right away even though they are rank beginners if the chosen exercise is low skill and does not impart high stress to tissues. In contrast, some very experienced exercisers may not qualify for intense exercise because they are rehabbing a certain body part.
Turn The Burn Around!
So hopefully you see that most fat loss programs are backwards. They emphasize burning fat through exercise first. Instead it is first nutrition (from a multifaceted approach), then exercise to teach proper movement and maintain muscle, and finally, go for the burn.