2 steps forward, 1 step back . . ?
A sensible rate of weight loss that is manageable, safe for health, ensures that you’re still getting all the requisite quantities of nutrients that your body needs for correct function, is sustainable and brings recognisable results, is losing between one and two pounds per week. Now initially, some of our Personal Training Clients find this figure disappointing because they’re hoping for more – which is understandable given our typical ‘I want it yesterday’ culture.
However, when you drill down to the detail, losing one and a half pounds per week equates to 5,400 calories, ie: a daily deficit of approximately 750 calories. Now that calorie deficit can be achieved in many ways. At one end of the scale you could starve yourself (something that I certainly don’t recommend!) and at the other end of the scale, you could run 7½ miles per day (for most people that wouldn’t be realistic), so the middle ground is where you need to be. That means a combination of eating correctly and burning calories through exercise. And this is where I see a problem.
People can often perceive that just because they’ve got hot and sweaty during their exercise then that gives them free rein to attack the Ben and Jerry’s, top up with a couple of pints or simply forgo sensible eating. Hence they rapidly undo their good work and find that their weight loss is very up and down, ie: two steps forward and one step back.
These sorts of results can be very de-motivating – one week you seem to be going well, only for the next week to set you back. But you know, weight management is a simple equation. If what you consume exceeds what your body needs for your levels of activity and function then you gain weight. So no matter how you protest, if your weight loss stalls or you even start to regain weight, despite the volume of exercise that you’re doing, then I know that you’ve been paying too many visits to the fridge.
Now because it can be challenging sustaining a long-term focus and keeping the pounds falling, this week I’m looking at some of the weight loss traps to avoid, together with tips and advice to help you stay motivated – just as we do with our Personal Training Clients. That way you’ll be able to go two steps forward followed by two steps forward!
1. Don’t be fooled by sweat. In warm weather if you’re exercising outside, or in the confines of the gym or exercise class, you can lose a great deal of fluid through sweating. Now that sweat will be replaced once you top back up but the very act of sweating can trick you into thinking that you’re working harder than you really are. Hence you finish your workout with the false perception that you’ve absolutely torched the calories so surely a wee treat to reward yourself for all that hard effort won’t go amiss? Sorry, it doesn’t work like that. I’ve completed very similar running workouts in the summer and winter and whilst I might finish dripping in the summer and still be well wrapped up and wearing gloves in the winter, my performances have been almost identical. So don’t kid yourself that you’ve worked harder than you really have, stick to the plan, stick to correct eating and the results will follow.
2. Time and distance are your friends. Just like your car, the faster you go (or the harder you work), the more fuel you burn up. Hence for jogging or running, you’re burning approximately 100 calories per mile covered and exercising for an hour can hit 600 calories (depending on the intensity). Those two statistics are great motivators to bang out an extra mile or keep on going for the full hour so that you hit your calorie burning target. So when your attention is wandering, the class has become a bit dull or a shortcut home looks attractive, stick to your guns and churn it out because it’s that consistent focus and calorie burn that’ll take you to your goal.
3. Beware that post-effort replenishment. If you’ve been exercising hard, more often than not you don’t initially want to eat much afterwards because intense exercise can be an appetite suppressant. However, to maximise your body’s recovery and the correct restocking of your fuel tanks, you do need to eat. And what can happen is that you delay refuelling for a couple of hours, seemingly with no adverse effects. Now there are two factors at work here. Firstly, your correct strategy is to eat or drink a small high carbohydrate snack within the first 15 minutes of completing your workout, followed by something more substantial and containing protein within two hours. The second issue is that if you do delay your refuelling too long, as well as missing the ‘golden window’ for optimum recovery, you’ll find that once you do start eating, you’re tempted by the high calorie, low nutrition foods and you find it difficult to stop. Before you know it you’ve overeaten and overeaten the wrong foods – a classic example of two steps forward and one step back. This happened to me some years ago at the London Marathon where despite food being available at the finish, the intensity of my race made me choose not to consume or drink anything – which was a mistake. By the time I’d collected my clothes, got cleaned up and made my way (slowly!) to the station, two or three hours had passed. I then thought that I ought to eat something and wow! Once I started, the floodgates opened and I became an eating machine – nothing was safe. This craving to refuel tempted me into eating some of the wrong types of fuel – not good!
4. . . . and finally, So the reality is that sustained weight loss isn’t easy. Yes it’s not too bad during the first week when your enthusiasm’s high and a couple of pounds slide off the scales because you’ve kept the correct focus for a whole seven days; it’s beyond that where the problems can start. So don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’ve sweated up Kilimanjaro when actually you’ve only climbed to the top of the multi-story! Equally, when the temptation comes to ease off, cut the run short or just drop your training intensity, keep your eye on the main prize and target and when you do refuel, start early, get your protocols right and stick to the script. Remember, two steps forward and one step back doubles the time it’ll take you to achieve success, so make it two steps forward EVERY TIME! Best wishes from all the body4life health & fitness Team – that’s me, Duncan, Dave, Alison and Tony (we only ever move forwards!).
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