Why Ignoring Diet and Focusing on Exercise is a Mistake for Weight Loss

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Do you exercise? If you do, that’s great. Most people don’t. The human species is more sedentary and less physically active than at probably any other time in history. That accounts partially for the highest chronic disease rate and alarming obesity epidemic experienced by humanity, which is the position we find ourselves in during the early part of the 21st century. So if you are working out, exercising and staying physically active to try and lose weight, good for you.

How often do you exercise?

The typical person using exercise and fitness routines for losing weight works out between 3 and 7 days each week. That means you have given yourself 3 to 7 opportunities to achieve the weight loss you are looking for. At the end of one year, that schedule means you positively impacted your weight loss efforts 156 to 364 times.

Now let’s look at how many meals you eat every day.

The average person eats either 2 or 3 major meals each day. Many people enjoy a snack or two daily as well. The human body craves hydration more than it does food, so throughout the day you are drinking beverages. Incidentally, the human body can go more than 30 days without food, but only about 3 days without water. So you should be hydrating frequently.

Let’s run those numbers and see how many opportunities you have to impact your weight loss through nutrition.

Going with the low-end estimate, let’s imagine you only eat 2 major meals a day. Let’s also figure 1 snack a day, every other day. We will consider all of your drinking each day as one session. That works out to 24.5 opportunities to impact your weight loss each week, as opposed to just 3 to 7 opportunities you receive weekly through exercise.

Over a year, your eating and drinking actions provide you anywhere from 1,200 to over 2,000 opportunities to impact your weight loss. Compare that to the 300 to 500 exercise sessions you enjoy at most each year, and you understand the powerful secret fitness and nutrition experts have known for decades.

Nutrition alone accounts for as much as 60% to 70% of your fitness level.

We are not saying exercise is bad. What we are saying is it should be considered just 1 part of a 2 part approach to losing weight and becoming healthy. Look at your results up till now. If you haven’t reached the weight loss and fitness goals you desire so far, but you exercise all the time, you may not be giving nutrition the best opportunity to help you get where you want to be.

How to Realistically Estimate How Many Calories You’re Burning Every Day

It is no secret that burning more calories than one eats leads to weight loss. Most people who are aware of this well known fact find the need to track calorie burn when pursuing weight loss. If you find yourself in a similar situation, you may be wondering how to go about measuring the amount of calories burned each day in order to assess your progress or lack thereof. So, where do you begin? Well, estimating calorie burn rate is possible if you invest in or make use of a few useful tools. Before delving into that, first let’s look at some of the factors that influence how many calories your body burns.

Factors that Influence Calorie Burn

There are three factors that determine how many calories your body burns. To begin with, your activity level plays a big role in energy expenditure. Generally, you will burn more calories by being more active.

Secondly, your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) also affects calorie burn. The BMR is simply a measure of calorie burn while the body is at rest. Physiological functions such as respiration and blood circulation use up the body’s energy (i.e. burn calories).

Thirdly, you also burn extra calories when digesting food. This physiological function is also known as Dietary Induced Thermogenesis (DIT) or more commonly, the Thermic Effect of Food. It simply refers to the amount of calories you burn above the resting metabolic rate due to the energy required to process food for use and storage.

Methods of Realistically Estimating Calorie Burn

Learning how to realistically estimate how many calories your’re burning every day is not difficult if you know what tools to use. Calorie burn rate is simply a sum of your energy expenditure during physical activity plus the body’s resting metabolic rate and Thermic Effect of Food. Some of the tools that can help you determine these components include:

Online Calorie Calculators

Calorie calculators found on the Internet are very easy to use. All you have to do is enter a few personal details and these tools will calculate an estimate of your calorie burn at the click of a button. Most online calorie calculators apply one of two formulas so that you don’t have to do manual calculations. Some automated calorie calculators use the Harris Benedict equation, which takes into account your gender, age, weight, and height to arrive at your basal metabolic rate. These tools then multiply your BMR reading with activity level and duration of activity while also reflecting the Thermic Effect of Food.

Some calorie counters use the Katch and McArdle formula, which includes body fat percentage as an additional variable to compute your BMR. Such counters give a more accurate BMR estimate since a person with more muscles burns more calories than an individual with high body fat.

Metabolic Analyzers and Activity Trackers

A metabolic analyzer is a device that you breathe into for about 10 minutes to get BMR reading. This device gives a more accurate reading of your resting metabolic rate. It can be used alongside activity trackers to realistically estimate how many calories you’re burning every day. As the name implies, fitness trackers monitor how many calories you burn during physical activity. These gadgets accomplish this by using a built in accelerometer. However, some trackers may not be accurate when monitoring certain activities like cycling or weight lifting. The best way to measure your activity level is using a sports watch or activity tracker designed to track calories for your specific type of workout.

Whichever method you use to estimate calorie burn, it is important to also count how many calories you consume through food. Remember, that weight loss will only happen when there is a calorie deficit, which means burning more calories than you take in. By taking these two steps, you will be better equipped to make the necessary adjustments in your diet and activity level to maximize weight loss.

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[Revised and Updated for June 2020]
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