Calories Control or Exercise for weight loss? The Answer is Complicated
Updated: Jul 23
“Hey now that I am doing yoga at Elate Wellbeing and also cardio at home, I may eat whatever I like, right?”, was the question from one of my overjoyed clients at Elate Wellbeing. This was too basic to let go was it not? Being the Nutritionist & Wellness Expert here, I jumped at the opportunity to sit him down and explain the whole process and concept. Then I understood how deep-rooted this controversy is and I should definitely put to paper the truth behind this!
Firstly, we must understand the term REE or Resting Energy Expenditure. It is the whole-body mammal metabolism during a time period of strict and steady resting conditions that are defined by a combination of assumptions of physiological homeostasis and biological equilibrium. In simple terms when you are at complete rest without any movement, you may feel rested, but the truth is, your body is carrying out basic metabolic activities to keep you alive and breathing, your mind at work, your lungs functioning, basic digestive practices going on, etc. Typically, about 60% of our total energy needs come from resting metabolism, but this varies greatly depending on our activity level. The average BMR for a woman is about 1,400 calories, while for a man it is about 1,800.
Maintaining this minimum burning capacity of the body is very important and it is one of the major factors in weight loss plan. So basically, when you have a good metabolism, your body will burn more calories to give you energy even at a comparative resting phase. Such metabolic activity helps you lose more weight. Therefore, cutting down calories or indulging in more physical activity cannot singularly help you in losing fat or overall weight. This is because both are inter-related.
On average, a person can cut down 500 calories from the daily diet and still remain in proper functional condition. Whereas if you are eating as much and plan to sweat it out at the gym, it is way more difficult to lose the extra calories. You would have to run or walk about 5 miles per day to lose around 2 kg of fat. Are the former sounds easier, does it not? But here is the catch, if you only cut back calories without physical activity you are more likely to regain the weight. This has deeper issues.
A lot of my clients on weight loss plans submit their diet recall or send me their diet journals, the most common fault in the daily routine, are the huge gaps in between meals. Incidentally, they are the ones who are suffering from long term stubborn weight issues.
This is the same thing that happens when we first start any diet or go on a very low-calorie diet all of a sudden. The body reacts to such conditions as if it is being starved and to cope up with anticipated lesser ingestion of calories, slows the metabolism further down and conserving the glycogen and fat stores, which makes it impossible to lose weight after a certain point.
When you burn fewer calories, also decreasing the intake at the same time:
· You will start losing lesser weight with every passing day
· You will then reach a plateau and altogether stop losing weight
Post this situation, your body will urge you to eat more, this is when you regain all the weight back faster than you lost and sometimes even double on itself!
Therefore, now comes the second important factor: physical activity. The answer to the fewer calories low metabolism problem is engaging in regular physical activity (should be at least 5-6 hours per week). This will help boost your REE and hence aid in weight loss. You will have increased burning capacity even when you are done with the physical activity and while resting.
Resting energy expenditure accounts for much of the calories that you burn each day, therefore an increased REE goes a long way in boosting your weight loss efforts. The kinds of vigorous activity that can stimulate your metabolism are:
· Cardio activity for 30 minutes
· Walking and cycling
· Strength training
· HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training)
· Resistance training
Even small incremental amounts of energy expenditure like standing up instead of sitting for long hours can add up to your total REE. Also including exercises along with your calorie’s reduction helps in curbing undue appetite. A good snack is what we all feel like having posted a good exercise session. This is sole because your body keeps burning a lot of calories post your work out period too, so feeling hungry at correct mealtimes is a good sign. This is also when you should too actually be eating, as your body asks for nutrients to recuperate from the muscle wear and tear you just made!
Therefore, we can summarise that while it is true that you can eat a cheat meal more maybe if you are working out owing to your increased REE, but you should remember that cutting down excess calories and working out go hand in hand in putting your body on a negative energy balance condition which is when your body actually loses weight and fat.