When it comes to fat loss, there’s no denying the importance of your calorie intake. Regardless of what diet or training method someone is selling you on Instagram, the fundamental principles of weight loss don’t change –
Consume less energy than you burn
Now, whether you do that by eliminating all carbs or by following some crazy meal plan doesn’t matter for short-term weight loss. You can restrict yourself and the scales will start moving quite quickly. Whether or not that is sustainable for your long-term success is a whole article for another day, though. My recommendation is for you to find a suitable approach to nutrition that you can see yourself living with and enjoying for the rest of your life, but at the end of the day, it’s up to you.
That’s only one side of the energy equation though – calories in.
The other side is your energy expenditure – calories out.
Even if you do figure out the ‘best’ diet for you and you’re eating perfectly, if you are sedentary and not active enough, you still won’t get the energy balance right. For example, you could restrict yourself to 1300 calories per day but if you aren’t actually burning more than that, your ‘energy in’ matches your ‘energy out’ and you don’t lose fat.
When we move and perform tasks, and even when we’re not moving, our body is using energy to fuel that process. We provide our body with this energy from food and it uses it depending on what and how much we demand from our body.
If you’re active and you exercise a lot, you’re going to burn more energy.
If you’re sedentary and don’t exercise, you’re not going to burn as much.
So how can you maximise your burning potential?
How can you burn the most calories?
Making sure you are actively contributing to your energy expenditure is crucial to your success. I’m not saying you have to run for 60-minutes on a treadmill everyday (I couldn’t think of anything worse actually) but you do need to be aware of how much energy you are burning.
The best way to do it is by staying as active as possible throughout the day – in the gym and out of it.
The energy that you burn is broken down into a few components, 2 of which are determined by your activity. You’ve got your NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) and your EAT (Exercise Activity Thermogenesis).
Put simply, NEAT is how much energy you burn throughout the day when you’re not specifically exercising. When you are walking, moving around, fidgeting, shivering, things like that.
EAT is the energy you burn during scheduled, specific exercise or training. A lot of people focus on the exercise portion of this and forget about the non-exercise activity. But that’s where the magic can happen.
Say you exercise for 1 hour, 3 times per week. You’re pretty active. You’re fit and strong. You’re doing all the right things in the gym. During those sessions in the gym you might burn 300-500 calories. It’s good. But it’s a drop in the ocean in the grand scheme of things.
What are you doing for the other 165 hours during the week?
If you smash yourself in the gym but veg out on the couch at every opportunity and work a sedentary job, you’re not really contributing that much to your overall energy expenditure. And simply going harder and pushing yourself more in your sessions isn’t going to fix the problem. If you do work a little harder in the gym, you might burn an extra 50-100 calories. That’s nothing really.
Your best bet is to increase your non-exercise activity and remain as active as you can throughout the day. Simply adding in a few 10min walks, opting for the stairs instead of the elevator, parking further away at the shops, riding your bike, taking public transport – these are all great ways to increase your energy burn without crushing your body in the gym even more.
A great place to start can be tracking your steps
If you kill yourself in the gym but only hit 5000 steps per day, your next step isn’t another gym session each week, it is to get those steps up to 6000 per day. And then 7000, and 8000..
The same thing applies even if you aren’t going to the gym yet. I’d recommend bumping those steps up and starting a gradual resistance training program. You don’t need to go super-high intense to see results.
If you’re new to the gym and quite sedentary already, the last thing you need is high-intensity exercise. You need to move more throughout the day and to lift in a controlled environment. This allows your body to adapt with only a little amount of effort early on. Then we can stretch out your progress for longer, rather than running into a plateau – or worse, an injury.
Not only is this a more sustainable approach long-term (how much easier is it to commit to 2 x 10-min walks everyday and a couple of training sessions instead of 6 sessions at the gym every week?), but you’ll also feel fresher, more recovered and less beaten down by the gym. All of which promote greater adherence to your program
Move more throughout the day and you’ll be surprised at how much extra energy you burn and how this translates into fat loss.