Most people blame the lack of exercise for weight gain. If only they had more time or discipline to exercise their weight would be better. Gym memberships are as common as Netflix accounts, but we still have an obesity problem in this country. I see the same 3 people walking on my morning runs. No more, no less. Thousands of people are doing marathons and triathlons each year. Unfortunately, the obesity epidemic continues to grow. So how much exercise is enough?
Exercise burns energy. Standing burns more than sitting. Walking more than sitting. Running more than walking. Going up hills more than flat. The longer you exercise the more calories you burn. All of this is pretty obvious.
Taking in nutrition adds energy in the form of calories. A lifesaver counts as does a bite of … or a taste of …, or a full meal. It all counts as energy in. Fat has 9 calories per gram where carbohydrate and protein have 4 calories per gram. If you weigh 200 pounds your body requires about 2000 calories to maintain that weight at rest. If you move, you body will burn more calories. Yes there are some variations in amounts but humans all follow the same basic principles of energy expenditure.
Health coaches and magazine articles talk of taking in proper nutrition after exercise as if we are going to melt in the next hour or so. So we go out to exercise in order to burn off excessive calories and then worry about eating as soon as we finish? If you have ever done or watched a 5K race (3.1miles that roughly burns 300-400 calories), you will see a finish line full of sugar drinks, donuts, pizza, “energy bars”, and bagels. Some of which contain more than what was burned during the race. The celebration usually continues after with a big breakfast. Even a marathon of 26.2 miles is associated with a prerace “carb loading” dinner followed by a finish line of treats. I have even seen people eating sandwiches during a race! Hence, the size of the average marathoner continues to grow. People sign up to do a marathon in order to loose weight and often GAIN weight. I listened to a recent podcast account of a 100 MILE race where the participant was having trouble loosing weight during the training. He spoke of eating sausage biscuits and gravy after runs. He finally cut out chips and was able to loose 20 pounds before the race started.
Even though it has been a long time since most of us were deprived of calories for long period of time, the food drive still remains strong. The problem is that the calorie density of foods have greatly increased and the body does not get the same satisfaction from soft fiberless foods. A bagel and avocado clocks in at 445 calories. Add another 100-200 calories if cream cheese added. Top it off with a flavored latte or frappuccino and you could add anther 500 calories. A bag of baked chips has more calories than is commonly expended in a 5K.
We are no longer burning calories to find food. We are now trying to burn off calories derived from calorie dense foods. It is a loosing proposition that results in frustration and cessation of all exercise attempts. It hurts to exercise if you are carrying excessive amounts of weight. By adopting a whole foods plant based diet and avoiding processed foods, we can get our energy balance back in line. Exercise to build muscle, bone and your cardiovascular system. Eat vegetables, fruit and whole grains not only for energy but to heal your body.