Thursday, July 11, 2013

You Can Out-train a Good Diet: Why You Aren't Losing Fat


You Can Out-Train a Good Nutrition Plan: Why You Aren't Losing Fat



When it comes to physique goals, everybody loves to remind each other that “It's 90% diet and 10% training", or something similar. While sound nutrition is absolutely crucial for meeting physique goals (and for the sake of our health), certain training can actually derail all of our hard work in the kitchen. 

"You can't out-train a bad diet", but 
you can out-train a good nutrition plan! 


Exercise is excellent in the right dosages, but too much or too little can be problematic. I hear from clients and friends all of the time about how hungry they are and that they can't control their appetite. It's also these same people that are going to the gym and exercising like a maniac for hours at a time, five days per week. 

Hmmm. Think there is some correlation there? You betcha.

It happened to me

When I lived in Las Vegas, I taught group fitness classes; tons and tons of group fitness classes. Body Pump, kickboxing, Spin, Pilates, yoga, you name it and I taught it. (Well, except for Zumba. These hips don’t lie.) 
I was teaching 2-3 classes per day, along with doing my own workouts. On many days, I was doing upwards of 4 hours of cardio per day. That, unfortunately, is not a typo. 

I remember being so puzzled about why I wasn't getting any leaner. 

“But... I’m burning like, 3,000 calories per day!” 

There are two explanations for the absence of fat loss in the above scenario. 

Adaptation


The human body is absolutely amazing, and not only does it handle all kinds of insane things we throw at it, but it is also quick to adapt. 
This is why it’s not uncommon to see many overweight people crossing the finish line of a marathon. They have burned thousands upon thousands of calories in their training over the course of a few months in order to run that 26.2 miles so in theory they should have lost quite a bit of weight, but in reality, most only lose a couple of pounds, and I’d bet my bottom dollar that the weight lost was precious muscle, not fat. 

This exact same principle applies to people that overdo cardio and group fitness classes. Their heart rate monitor may say that they’ve burned 700 calories, but their body has not only come to expect that kind of energy output, but also demand it in order to simply maintain where they are currently at. This means that you have to keep doing more and more and more cardio in order to get anywhere, and ain't nobody got time fo' that. 

Hangry (so hungry you are angry)


The second problem with overdoing cardio (or any activity) is that it leaves you famished. I know because that is exactly what happened to me when I was participating in that cardio madness, and it’s exactly what all of my cardio bunny friends dealt with, too. 

We would absolutely hammer down food at night. It wasn’t uncommon for me to get home in the evening and eat chicken, sweet potato, a huge sandwich, a thing of yogurt, a few slices of bread, a granola bar, and several cookies. 

I became an exercise-induced bottomless pit, and I think it's fair to say that my daily gorging didn't do anything positive for my physique or my eating habits. 

The lesson here:

You can out-train your nutrition plan. 


Cardio is a tricky fat loss tool. Too little and you may not progress, but too much will make you extremely fuel efficient. This sounds like it'd be awesome, until you realize that fat is fuel and you've essentially turned your body into a little hybrid Smart car, which means that you can do a whole lot without expending much energy. Wah-waaaah.

When it comes to cardio, it's vital that you do juuuusst enough to push progress along without wreaking havoc on your appetite or causing your body to get so used to it that it comes to expect it's daily dose without any return. 


Strength Training: Too Much of a Good Thing

Cardio bunnies are not the only ones guilty of overdoing it in the gym. 

Some women are taking strength training waaaay too far. They are heading to their gym to lift for hours, then train Strongman events, and then doing some type of conditioning or HIIT. 

Meanwhile, 3 hours of activity later, they are friggin’ starving, and gnawing on their seatbelt as they race home to stuff their face with everything they can find. 

Just because it’s a "post-workout window" does not mean that it’s a free-for-all, and I see people making this mistake over and over again. Yes, strength training and lifting heavy is great, but overdoing it is causing them to overeat, which hinders fat loss goals. 

I’m not a fan of two and three hour training sessions for people that want to get leaner, because I can almost guarantee that the hunger alone will derail them. 
If their voracious appetite doesn’t do them in, then the mindset certainly will, as they convince themselves that they earned the right to shovel back copious amounts of food; far more than what would help them lose bodyfat. 

This is another example of how

You can out-train your nutrition plan. 


Think of fat loss and training on a teeter-totter, with one on each end. In order to get leaner, you have to find a good dose between the two so that they can work together. Too much or too little food - no matter how "clean" the sources are - will put a stop on fat loss, just like too much or too little activity will. 

Your appetite is winning.


I see people posting on Facebook and Instagram all of the time boasting about their twice daily lifting and/or cardio sessions. "Two-a-days, baby!" Um, no. That shit cray. Interestingly enough, it's also these same people that are constantly posting about how starving they are. 

We must keep in mind the golden rule of using the minimum effective dose when it comes to diet and exercise for fat loss: You want just enough of each to compliment each other and generate a favorable response, but not a drop more. 

Going to the gym and absolutely killing it for hours may be fun (I get it!) but it's not conducive with fat loss. 

60 - 90 minutes. Get in, get out, and get on with it. Modify your intensity, volume, and duration of your training so that it coincides with your nutrition plan. Your physique will thank you. 

How long do you train for? 
Do you find that overdoing it revs up your appetite to uncontrollable levels?
Let's chat! Drop me a line below. 


31 comments:

  1. Powerful advice. I am on a good plan right now, but I do have a tendency to squeeze in an extra cardio session here or there although my trainer basically told me not to. Maybe I need to stop doing that again:)

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    1. Thanks!

      Yeah, I am a girl that enjoys the "extras" too, but I think it's important to keep in mind the Minimum Effective Dose ;)

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  2. Great post! I never got the "two-a-days" thing either-always seemed like overdoing it to me. For me, it's lifting 4 days a week, 60 minutes MAX! Occasionally, a walk on off days, but that is it! I do eat a lot , but I never feel so hungry that I lose control or want to stuff my face with anything in sight.

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  3. This is like the answer I've been looking for for weeks. I've been increasing my intensity in the gym and then jogging/walking at least 4-6 miles a few days a week. I couldn't understand why in the world I was so hungry come mid afternoon. I would eat clean, snack on fruits and veggies but it never feels like enough. I guess now I know why!

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    1. Hey Kris,

      I can tell you from experience that nothing - absolutely nothing - revs my appetite up quite like jogging does. I'd definitely whittle some things back and see how you feel! <3

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  4. If someone is doing 'extra cardio' then he or she isn't working hard enough during the 60 minutes it takes to get a ball busting workout in.

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    1. I totally agree with you! I always say it!

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  5. I try to set a time limit of an hour at the gym. Go there and do whatever I need to in under 60 minutes, and if I miss something well there is always next time. There is a point where a person gets diminishing returns on their investment of time at the gym. The same thing goes for rest days, I like to follow an "every other day" routine or if I am doing 1RM workouts then I will go back when I stop being sore. Working out harder does not mean you are doing it better. I have had friends accuse me of lying for having "that" body and only working out 3-4 hours per week.

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    1. I agree with you completely on diminishing returns once you exceed a certain time/intensity/volume at the gym!

      My favorite saying that is applicable to this situation from Rachel Cosgrove is, "More isn't better. Better is better."

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  6. I know exactly what you're saying. As I increased my cardio and lifting, trying to build a strong heart and body, I have become ravenous. Thanks for the clarity on this. I need to step back a bit. I loved where I was: clean food, walk/run/stairs, lifting one-hour 2-3x a week. No problem. But as I have increased the workouts, I have been puzzled by the newly voracious appetite. I thought, "Am I starving myself?" Getting totally mixed up. Your post is timely and helpful. Back to basics. Thanks.

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    1. So glad this was helpful! Thank you for your feedback, and I think that is a good plan!

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  7. Thank you for posting this! I've just written about '2-a-day' workouts and how potentially harmful they can be. Not everybody agrees and many just don't want to accept that their workout schedule borders on obsessive...

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    1. Hey Tamara!
      Do you have a link? I'd love to check out what you wrote!

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  8. Great article, Jen! I remember you as the cardio bunny when we worked together ;) I balance 3 to 4 days a week at least in now and add a pool and a yoga session too. Wait until premenopause hits...then you have to be even more deligent!

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    1. Hey Cece!

      Awww yes, you witnessed my Cardio Bunny days for sure! Thanks for reading!

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  9. I've been trying to tell some friends this for so long! Now, I'll just share the link to your article. :) Thanks for writing this, Jen!

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  10. oh you have me cracking up with "that shit cray"!

    I used to be this way too and I am so very thankful that I changed my ways!

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  11. Very informative, thank you for sharing. I just started running and was finding myself STARVING afterwards. I think my body is starting to adapt and I am making wiser choices in the way that I refuel because I no longer feel that need to gorge all day. It's a tricky balance indeed. As for the lifting, yeah I gotta force myself to add that to balance out the cardio. Running is just so much fun....

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    1. Thank you, and happy to hear that your appetite is balancing out!

      Strength training will definitely be a nice complement to your cardio!

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  12. This is very timely for me right now! For the past two years, I've always kept my workouts between 45-60 minutes. Now that I've started training for a strongwoman competition, my workouts are more like 1.5-2 hours. I'm doing a lot of technique work and it is INTENSE. After my first few training sessions, I was absolutely ravenous and ate anything and everything available to me. Now I've gotten a bit more sensible about fuelling myself - eating a bigger meal beforehand helps control my appetite, and I make sure to eat a LOT of vegetables to trick my mind. Thankfully, as of next week, most of my sessions should be back to 60-90 minutes, so it will become a little easier to manage.

    Great post, as always!

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    1. Hey Tara!

      Ahhh Strongwoman! How fun! I am going to pop over to your site and see what you've been up to right now! :)

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  13. This is so great! Getting cardio to complement my lifting routine has been a balancing act. Love your blog!

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  14. Love your blog Jen! So much of what you've written resonates with me. I know first hand the effects of overdoing cardio or intense training. When I first started incorporating HIIT I loved the results, so I upped the ante... and put on 10lbs. I also wasn't sleeping through the night anymore. Taking a month off from the gym and focusing on lower intensity activities like yoga and walking has gotten me back on track. That all happened over the winter. I'm currently training for a 5k and still slowly but consistently losing fat (don't worry, I'm still lifting a couple times a week too ;-). Now I can tell when I'm pushing too hard because my progress stalls.

    Thanks for the reminder to keep everything in balance.

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    1. Thanks for the feedback Merina, and I'm so glad that you are taking things slow and steady while listening to your body. It's so important!

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  15. Hi Jen!

    I've been struggling in the fat loss category, and I'm beginning to think I have found the culprit. Because of my schedule, my husband and I are hitting the gym on average between 9pm-10pm, which means we are finishing up at 11pm, and then coming home and having our post work-out shake by 11:15pm and a small bite to eat by 12am! This sounds so horrible as I type it out. We're in bed by 1am and up the next morning at 6am.... I eat super clean, powerlift, and try to get my cardio in here & there, maybe 15 min x4/week.

    What is worse for fat loss in your opinion - the late workouts/little sleep or the fact that I am only doing cardio for 15 min x 4 week pre-workout?

    Thanks! Charlotte

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    1. Hey Charlotte,
      I don't think there is anything wrong with later workouts, but you guys are definitely pushing it a bit and it's interfering with your natural circadian rhythm. Ice that off with too little sleep overall, and I think we're on to something here!

      The only clients I've ever had that I have been unable to get to progress at all are clients that have extremely wonky sleep schedules. High quality sleep when it's dark outside ;) is so incredibly important! I encourage you to give up those late workouts for a week or so, get them in on the weekends, and then see what changes you notice!

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    2. Hi Jen,

      Thanks for the feedback! I will talk to my husband and we will try this out and see what happens.

      Charlotte

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