This is a revised version of an article I wrote a few years ago (back when I still did CrossFit and wore a Bodybugg). I like to send it out this time of year. Enjoy. – Jim
You can’t out-train the dinner table!
Fitness is at least 80% nutrition.
For most embarking on a fitness mission, the objective is some form of weight/fat loss. Many think an hour on the elliptical or a cycling class is sufficient to burn off the extra calories consumed during an eating binge. Not so.
For the more enlightened, some form of strength training, kettlebell training or maybe CrossFit workouts are prescribed, which will create a greater conditioning effect, and also speed fat loss. Generally, these types of workouts also expend way more calories than just cardiovascular training, or distance running, which burn only slightly more calories than walking.
Here is a concrete illustration of the fact that no matter how hard you train, your nutrition is still the deciding factor in whether you lose or gain weight. By nutrition, I mean the amount of calories you take in relative to the amount you burn throughout the day.
Forget about ratios of protein to carbohydrate and fat, or what types of foods you eat. Yes, they do have an impact on your physiology and the way your body will respond to training. But, let’s not get that complex for now. It is calories in versus calories burned, first and foremost.
Since kettlebell training is not familiar to some, I will use a simple bodyweight workout as an illustration. By simple, I do not mean easy. This is a smoker. Give it a shot sometime.
Set a stopwatch and do the following as fast as possible:
1 mile run
300 bodyweight squats
1 mile run
Puke breaks are allowed, but the clock still ticks. Think this is enough to “burn off” poor eating for the day? Think again.
Some time ago, I hit this workout hard. I completed it in roughly 40 minutes, so I was jacked.
That is an awesome workout, probably a little harder than normal for me. And, I dare say, lugging my 230lb frame though 600 bodyweight reps and two, 1-mile runs is significantly more power output than is found in any cycling or aerobics class, or any DVD course found on some infomercial.
I went home and downloaded my Bodybugg. I’d burned 722 calories during the workout. That is a lot for 40 minutes.
The Bodybugg is a device that measures g-force, the amount of heat your body dissipates, the amount of sweat you are producing and the amount of heat your skin produces. All these factors are figured together in order to calculate calorie burn. It is the most accurate device on the market, but still not perfect. There are still other factors that impact this number, and more importantly, how many calories you burn as your body recovers from a workout like this.
Do not believe the electronic calorie burn numbers on machines at the gym or on any heart rate monitor. They are not close to accurate.
A pound of fat equals 3,500 calories of energy.
To lose a pound per week, you have to reduce your caloric intake by 3,500 per week, or 500 calories per day. To lose two pounds, you’d have to reduce your intake (or increase your expenditure) by 1,000 calories.
If you reduce your expenditure (or increase intake) by 500 calories per day – or one 12oz latte - you’ll gain a pound a week.
That same day I did the Murph workout, I ate the following:
– An Apex Fit Drink and a bowl of oatmeal.
– A 12″ turkey and pastrami deli sandwich with a small bag of barbecue
potato chips and a 32oz raspberry iced tea.
– Post workout, I had another Apex FIT Drink mix, with a scoop of glutamine.
– For dinner, I had a heaping plate of pasta with shrimp wrapped in bacon. Oh, and I also had two 12oz pale ales and a glass of red wine.
Yes, this was a “cheat meal/day” and I ate like absolute garbage.
Grand total calories consumed for the day? 4,170
Total calories burned that day: 3,798
That equals a calorie surplus of 372 calories.
That being the case, if I were to do the this workout everyday (!), and eat like a pig, I would still gain a pound of fat about every 9 days. If I did that every week for a year, I’d gain 40lbs of fat.
Even after a workout like Murph, a binge at the dinner table will more than out-do any hope of trimming down through exercise alone.
Think about this the next time you try to rationalize poor nutrition by a trip to the gym. It won’t work. It is about consistent hard training, and constant accountability for what you eat and drink. There is no “I eat pretty good.” Unless you strictly monitor your calorie intake -vs- output, you will not reach any weight loss goal.
No matter how hard you train, you can’t out-train the dinner table.