I have been following this advice my entire adult life. That is the advice we are given isn’t it? Essentially it sounds about right. Create a caloric deficit and get the results you want: lose fat, gain muscle, maintain weight etc. Recently I stumbled across an article by Metabolic Effect that broke down the eat less, exercise more mantra and how it may not work for everyone. I think I am one of those people. I began to think about the times in my life where I tried to eat less and exercise more. It usually started off great. I was motivated, I saw results. But, was I able to maintain that in an effortless way of living? The answer has always been no.
In your order to lose weight/fat, whether you count calories or not, you need a caloric deficit. That is without question a true statement. However, what Metabolic Effect pointed out that I hadn’t thought about before, was that you also need hormonal balance. How do you find out if your hormones are balanced without extensive testing? A general way to find out is if you hunger, craving and energy are in check. If you are getting the results you want you are probably doing a good job with your workouts and way of eating. Keep it up! If not, you do not have to be a slave to eat less, exercise more. Find out if a different approach might be best for you (it’s always about what works for you).
Are your cravings out of control?
I for one, am always craving one more bite, something salty, something sweet and never feel satisfied or full. Or even if I do, I still want something else. This has become mindless and has become a habit. I never really associated it with anything other than my stressful eating habits until recently when I really started to look into the association with exercise and the increase that it has on hunger and cravings. And it should! I am using more of my bodies fuel, my energy, and in turn, it literally needs more.
What has been more difficult for me is that my entire life, I have always tried to eat less and exercise more, while being an avid exerciser. Through my childhood and college it was just sports, sports, sports that kept me exercising without even giving it a second though. And I ate food without giving it a second thought. Fuel up, workout, repeat. Post athlete years, I just kept going, working out on a regular basis but something changed. I started to become more focused about calories and began to restrict my intake. Or attempted to anyways. I have spent my years putting way to much effort into trying to balance my food intake with my workouts.
Are you relying strictly on your workouts?
I always would think, “There is no way I can exercise less. I have too big of an appetite and I will not be able to maintain my weight without it.” But to be honest, I have never really given it a chance. As I am learning more about my body I am realizing that I do not want to spend my life freaking out if I cannot get a workout in and relying on my workouts to keep my body the way it is. Life happens, we go on vacation, we go through periods where we do not feel as motivated, things come up that interfere with our workouts. I want to be able to have my hunger, energy and cravings under control and be ok if I miss workouts. Don’t get me wrong, I am an active person and one of those people who actually enjoys working out, but not when it is draining my energy, time and well-being.
Eat less, exercise less. Say What?
Metabolic Effect pointed out two different approaches to working out that while I have probably always known, I have never really thought deeply enough to try it. Eat more, exercise more (typically for muscle gain and/or for people who love to workout hard and often) or eat less, exercise less (typically for fat loss, for those with hormonal imbalance, or who don’t like to or don’t have the time to workout). It is a like a lightbulb went off in my head. If you are working out harder and more often, you need to eat MORE not less. Now when I say more, remember the calorie deficit. Typically you can’t eat to your hearts content and expect the exercise will just take care of everything. The point is that you need to eat enough to manage your hunger, cravings, and energy. Are you tired of those words yet? 😉
Now what about the opposite? Eat Less, exercise less. It seems like such a taboo concept in our modern society. But in my head it makes perfect sense. I lower my caloric intake slightly and quit trying to kill myself in the gym 5 days a week. I focus on movement like leisure walking and restorative yoga to help balance my hormones and throw in two weight workouts a week. This idea just thrills me! I love to lift, so I am looking forward to my two days and my body has more time to relax and recover. There will definitely be periods in my life where I will eat more and exercise more, but right now I need to get my energy in check.
A word about lowering caloric intake.
I am still eating, I am just trying to eat a little less and less often. I am use to eating 6-7 meals and snacks a day and what I have done is trained my body to be hungry 6-7 times a day. It is not right or wrong but it has me constantly hungry and craving food. I am trying to take my meals down to 3-4 times a day and eat bigger meals so I feel fuller longer and not obsessing over when it is time to eat. Eating multiple times a day and counting calories and macronutrients is a modern day way of thinking. Our ancestors were not sitting around figuring out if their meal had a balance of carbs, proteins and fat. I am not saying that we have not made advances in our knowledge of nutrition and metabolism that could better suit us, but I do think we have become obsessed about rules, and what is the right and wrong way to do things. Do what works for you. And the only way to figure out what works for you is to give it a try. 🙂